From Spain to the States

I’m finally back in the United States and over the jet lag (mostly). I can’t tell you how much of a relief it is to finally be able to read every option on the menu, live out of a closet instead of a suitcase, and communicate with others without having to repeat myself multiple times. Our school trip to Spain was amazing, and by the time we came back I had learned so much beyond our expected Spanish curriculum.

When we left on March 23, I was so excited I could barely think straight. Even when we landed in Madrid after only a couple hours of sleep on the plane and had to start an entire day of sightseeing, I was so thrilled to be in another country that I hardly noticed the exhaustion. I remember how long that first day felt, since even though it was technically the next day, it felt like the same day as we had left America. We did so much every day that it often felt like single days stretched out into many, and by the end of the two weeks it felt like we had been there for months.

Once I got over the initial culture shock, I was able to recognize some specific differences between the United States and Spain that I thought were super interesting. First of all, the taxes work differently in Spain, which means that when you walk into a store, the price listed on the price tag is all it will cost at the register. It took me a few days to get used to walking into a store with a ten-euro bill and walking out with a shirt priced at 9.99 euros.

There were a lot of other small differences, too. It isn’t common or expected to leave tips at restaurants. The people were still wearing sweaters and winter coats in the 60-degree weather while our group was parading around in shorts and tank tops. The buildings are all so ornate, with beautiful architecture and quaint balconies overlooking the tiny streets. There are so many stairs in Spain. My legs definitely got a workout while we were gone.

The culture was also very different. People in Spain eat at different times than I’m used to, with breakfast at eight, lunch around three, and dinner at nine at night, and snacks at 11 and five. I never quite adjusted to that schedule, and I was happy to return to normal when I came home. Spain culture is also very relaxed, and while I was with my host family it was common for us to arrive late to places without a worry. Spaniards are also a lot touchier than Americans. They hug, kiss cheeks, and hold hands as an expression of greeting and friendship. Once I got used to this, I found that I actually liked it a lot.

There were some people in our group that said they would be happy if they never had to go home. They seemed to love every part of Spain, and were so sad when we got on the plane to go home. Other people said that they thought it was interesting, but did not feel the need to ever come back. They’d seen all they needed to, and it was enough to prove to them that they belonged in America. I fell somewhere in the middle. I loved the process of exploring a new culture, eating different foods and talking with Spaniards, but I was also incredibly relieved to come home.

This entire experience helped remind me of a lot of things. There are always new things for us to see and experience, and we don’t always have to travel across the ocean for them. Sometimes it’s as simple as picking something new off the menu in a restaurant, or taking a different route to school in the mornings. Sometimes we aren’t going to be completely in control and we aren’t going to know exactly what’s going on, and at those times it’s important to go with the flow.

The most important thing that Spain reminded me of was how much I value home and being near those that I care about. I was fortunate to meet so many kind people in Spain that really made me part of their family while I was there, but I never felt more at home than when I came back and saw my family again. It was an incredibly educational two weeks, but it was just as nice to get back home.

See you next time!