¡Hola amigos! This is only my fourth day in Spain, but what with my busy schedule and the time difference, it feels like it’s been weeks. A lot has happened, so I will try not to make this too long.
To get to Spain I had to take three different flights: Austin to DFW, DFW to Madrid, and Madrid to Sevilla. The flight from DFW left at 6PM, but because Spain is 7 hours ahead, we landed in Madrid at around 10AM. I tried to sleep for most of the flight, but it was really hard to get comfortable and I kept waking up so I don’t think I actually got very many hours of sleep. There was a group of other TCU students on my last two flights, so it was nice to be able to meet some people and travel with them to Spain.
We landed in Madrid and the whole TCU group walked together to find our gate for the Sevilla flight. Thank God there were other people with me, because I definitely wouldn’t have been able to navigate the Madrid airport alone. We finally found our gate, and once we boarded it was only about an hour before we were finally in Sevilla! We all got cabs and rode to the Hotel Zenit, where we stayed for the next two nights. At this point it was finally starting to sink in that I was actually in Spain. Driving from the airport to the hotel I looked around at all of the signs in Spanish, and thought “wow, I’m really doing it! I’m living in another country for 5 months!”
The next few days were spent getting to know the city by walking around and trying different restaurants, and going to “orientation” where all 22 of us met with a professor from TCU and a woman named Mary Alice, who is our contact and “mentor” here in Spain. The orientations were meant to help us learn more about the Spanish culture and talk about any questions or concerns that we had. As I expected, there are a lot of cultural differences between the U.S. and Spain. Here are a few of the differences we learned about in the orientation, and some that I have noticed from my few days here so far:
- When you meet someone for the first time, you don’t shake their hand. Instead, you kiss both of their cheeks.
- Meal times are all very different from the U.S. Lunch isn’t served until about 2 or 3, and dinner is served around 9 or 10. Eating dinner at 6 or 7 is literally unheard of.
- Siestas are a real thing (and a beautiful thing as I have learned). Around 3:30 every day, most Spaniards will take a nap for a few hours. This is perfect because it is right after lunch and before dinner.
- There are bike lanes everywhere, but they are on the sidewalks instead of the road. This has been surpassingly difficult to get used to, and I have accidentally walked in the bike lanes a few times and gotten yelled at/almost run over.
- Taking food or drinks to-go is not done in Spain. They will think you are a bit strange if you ask to take your food home, and most restaurants don’t even have to-go containers.
On Sunday my roommate and I met our host family for the first time. Our host mom is named Purificacion, or Puri as everyone calls her. Puri lives in an apartment in an area called Los Remedios, which is a great location and within walking distance of many restaurants, bars and Sevilla landmarks. She has been extremely friendly and welcoming to us, and though it has been a hard transition trying to speak in all Spanish to her, she seems very understanding. She has a 22-year-old daughter who is also very nice, as well as two older children who we have not met yet. We did get the pleasure of meeting one of her 11-month-old grandchild today, who is just about the cutest baby I have ever laid eyes on. Puri and her daughter refer to her affectionately as “Gordita” because she is so chubby.
But possibly the best member of my host family is the dog, Dana. Never in my life have a met a more clingy dog. If you stop petting her she will push her nose into you, stand with her back to you and push her butt against you or lay on the ground on her back until you finally give in and pay attention to her. My roommate Kristina and I have spent a surprising amount of time talking to, petting and paying attention to Dana. She demands 24 hour attention.
This week we are taking a Spanish class to brush up on the language before we start our classes at the university next week, and this weekend we are taking two-day trip to Granada and Cordoba. Overall I am loving my time here in Sevilla. The city is beautiful, the food is amazing, and I have been meeting a lot of new people from TCU.
P.S. Another fun fact: My name is causing a lot of confusion. Because h’s in Spanish are silent, words beginning in Sh are non-existant. Every time I introduce myself, this is what follows:
“Me llamo Shelly.”
So yeah, shout out to my parents for giving me a non-Spanish friendly name. Maybe I should just change it to Charlie.