Alyssa Nevergold is a student at Colorado State University and a former ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Sevilla, Spain.
You will eat so much bread.
Almost everything you eat is either made with bread, served with bread, or on bread. And it keeps coming. Whether you are full or not, your host mom is guaranteed to offer you just one more piece that you will probably eat regardless because bread. For all you celiacs and intolerance people out there, be prepared to search for options without gluten. But good news: most places do have options for my gluten free people!
2. The only Spanish song you will actually learn the words to is “Despacito.”
No matter where you go, what time it is, who is there, or any time of year, you will hear “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi in every single social setting you are introduced to. You cannot hide from this; you have to accept it. Most likely in the end you embrace the song, and it never gets unstuck from replaying in your brain. You’ll never admit it, but it is now your favorite song.
3. No matter how hard you study, you are bound to make a hilarious language mistakes.
Language is hard. Learning a language in high school or college is even harder. Studying a language and traveling to other countries that speak another language is the hardest thing. Getting your English, Spanish, little French, Czech, or whatever other language you had to learn for the weekend mixed up is going to happen. Mixing up the meaning of words or using them in the wrong context will happen. Most of the time your intercambio or host family will laugh and just brush it off. Don’t worry about it, at least you’re trying!
4. Traveling is not THAT cheap.
Usually people talk about how traveling around Europe is SO CHEAP. In reality, it is very inexpensive, but an average trip will cost you $200. I do not know about you but for a broke college student spreading a summers worth of work over four months, that is still quite a bit of money. Do not worry… stay calm and budget! Traveling inexpensively is possibly and seeing as many countries as you can is possible! Just be smart with your money and research places and flights before you book a trip.
5. You do actually have to study sometimes.
Yes, studying abroad does actually include some studying. No, it is probably not the work load you are used to; some classes are pass fail, and you may be taking a minimal amount of credits. But studying and homework is something you will have to fit into your schedule. Lucky for you, you have lots of bus, train, and airplanes to help you actually get things done.
6. You will be tired. All the time.
Spanish people do not sleep. They eat dinner around eight or nine and do not go to bed until past midnight, every night. Getting used to this schedule and traveling all the time is exhausting. Getting up for your nine a.m. class is not easy, but I promise in the end the sleep deprivation is worth it. Always choose to wander instead of nap. Choose to get gelato at 10; nobody ever regrets gelato.
7. You will have to ask for everything.
This is mostly at restaurants. In the United States, it is normal that when you walk into a place to eat you are greeted, seated, and handed a menu. In Spain, it is more typical to seat yourself and ask for a menu. Once you get a menu, flagging down a waiter to order it pretty normal but most of the time they do come to you. Also water is not free, so ordering water or tap water is different from it just being given to you at most American restaurants. Then at the end of your meal finding a waiter and asking for the check can be an adventure in itself. Also it is normal for meals to last hours in Spain, so taking your time at the restaurant is completely normal.
8. Everyone wants to practice their English with you.
As much as you want to practice your Spanish, everyone else will want to practice their English with you. This could be people on the streets hearing you talk, friends you meet, your host family–pretty much anyone. It is super fun to talk to the natives and get to know them. But do not forget to keep up with Spanish. It is okay to respond in Spanish even if they are responding in English. You are both wanting to practice so get the best of both worlds, practice makes perfect!
9. You don’t have to worry about all the food you’re eating because you walk so much.
Makin’ your way downtown walking is very normal in Spanish culture. Traveling by foot in Europe is the most common way to get around. So don’t you worry about all the crepes, empanadas and croissants you are eating because you are also probably walking 10 miles or more everyday. Calories are no match for the European way.
10. You will never want to leave.
The best part and the worst part of studying abroad in Spain is at the end of it all you will not want to leave. The thought of going back home and seeing your friends and family is so exciting, but leaving the place you learned to call home makes you want to cry. Leaving is bittersweet, but remember you can always come back!
The world awaits…discover it.