Well everybody, the day has come.  Last blog.  Last day in Alicante.  Last comida con Chelo.  Last time I’ll see my friends for a while! Saying goodbye can be hard, but I am ready to go home for Christmas.  Alicante has a few lights hanging above some streets but no ones homes have Christmas trees up or lights on their apartments.  It doesn’t feel like Christmas yet!

How have I spent my last few days?  Trying to cram 4 finals in 2 days plus have fun is kind of difficult but I did it and I’m glad they’re finally done.  Saying goodbye to the professors was hard because they were all really cool and great teachers.   We went to Altea the other weekend (a city close by Alicante) and it was so beautiful and so much fun.  It felt like an old traditional pueblo with white houses and little cute shops and cafes.  Wish I could stay there forever! Last Tuesday we went ice skating in Elche, I’ve been finishing up some Christmas shopping and spending lots of time with my friends!  Eating the food we’ll miss and reminiscing about all the fun we’ve had over tapas and drinks.  Couldn’t let finals ruin my last week in Spain!  Our last Friday night together we all went out for a nice dinner, drank by the beach, tried absinthe (tastes like licorice if you’re curious) and went dancing.  Such a great way to end the semester together!

Chelo has been crying every day.  I’m not much of a crier so this is kind of weird.  And I feel like a cold hearted person for crying, but like last Tuesday it still hadn’t hit me that I was leaving, I’m not sure how it hit her yet.  I’m so grateful she offered to drive me to the airport… but I know she’s going to ball her eyes out the whole way and that will be interesting haha.

How has my Spanish improved is really the most important question, since that’s why I’m here.  I’m not fluent.  But fluency I think for someone at my level of Spanish after just one semester abroad is an unrealistic goal.  However, I feel a lot more comfortable to speak in Spanish and am more willing to make mistakes.  I have a bigger vocabulary now; I can write an essay without checking the dictionary 5 million times.  I’ve learned a lot of new Spanish grammar that I didn’t know existed – subjunctive to a new level.  I’ve learned tons of colloquial Spanish words and phrases that I know I will never remember in like 2 weeks.  And I know that I’m really thankful for this opportunity because it has made me much more confident that I can actually become a Spanish teacher.

Even though Chelo will probably never read this nor knows what a blog is, I will thank her anyways for everything that she has done for me and providing a nice home for me to stay in.  Unfortunately, we’re not BFFs like you want to be, I’m still happy to be here and thankful for everything.

I HOPE I’ve accomplished my job with this blog and sharing my experiences in Spain and studying abroad in general.  I’d recommend it to anyone who is as fortunate to have this opportunity.  Start planning it like right away! And I’m always here for help if you have any questions.!

Rebecca

See you soon, Chicago!

See you soon, Chicago!

First Sangira!

First Sangira!

The castle in Alicante

The castle in Alicante

One of the tallest points in Granada (Alhambra behind us)

One of the tallest points in Granada (Alhambra behind us)

A part of the palace in the Alhambra

A part of the palace in the Alhambra

The royal chapel

The royal chapel

Right now there are 2 SXU Cougars studying in Alicante: Danielle Wilbur, and myself.  A week or so ago, my boyfriend JT (or Juan Tomas according to Chelo), came to visit during Thanksgiving break.

He was only here in Spain for a week so we had to squeeze a lot in at once.  We visited the castle in Alicante, the beach, the port, the nightlife, restaurants, university, plaza del toros, central market, shopping, the explanada and watched some soccer games.  He tried Sangria for the first time, tortilla espanola, and chorizo (and more but I can’t think of everything).  He also had the wonderful privilege of staying in my Spanish madre’s house for a few days.   She was very generous to let him stay here instead of booking a hotel or hostel to save money!  I didn’t ask for him to stay, she offered.  She says its the Spanish culture!  It was very nice of Chelo.  I forewarned her that he barely spoke Spanish but it didn’t matter to her, I would be the translator.

She said she would give us our space, we could come and go as we please, and she would cook for us whenever and eat snacks from the fridge.  And at first she really was giving us our space.  I was afraid JT wasn’t going to believe the horror stories of Chelo.  But eventually Chelo felt comfortable with talking to us whenever.  JT began to see the real Chelo.  A few times I would be in the bathroom and Chelo would start talking to JT in spanish and I’d have to run and tell her he doesn’t understand you, like somehow she thought he would just understand today instead of yesterday.  And by the end JT was afraid she would start reorganizing his suitcase and washing his used clothes.

JT Was here during my final presentation week.  Luckily I had got my work done ahead of time, but I had to go to school Mon-Thurs while he was here.  On Thursday we went to Granada! He got to experience the history and culture of more Southern Spain.  We had free tapas every night for dinner and tried some churros y chocolate.  We visited La Alhambra which was a palace of the Mores who for centuries ruled Spain.  We also saw the Chapel dedicated to Queen Isabel and King Fernando who funded Columbus’s voyage to the “America’s”.  We saw their tombs buried under the church and the royal cathedral next to it.  Granada is so much different than Alicante because it has such old history attached to it.  I love it and JT did too!

JT loved it here and didn’t want to go home back to school!  I’m so happy he could come visit! And I’m glad he loved it here in Alicante and Spain.

What can I say, from beginning to plan to study abroad until now life has been crazy… and its not over yet!  Just another curve ball!

Just found out the other day that Iberia Airlines is going on strike on December 17-21.  Guess who flies Iberia all the way home and leaves December 21st… THIS GIRL! How’d I get so lucky?  In reality, a lot of people from my program are flying with Iberia these days so many of us are in the same boat.

I guess, Iberia is having a lot of money problems.  They foresee that they need to lay off 4,500 works in order to compensate for the problem.  The baggage claim workers and other employees plan to officially strike these days in December.  I personally don’t know much about business strategies but I think striking will not help their problem because workers in Spain do not get paid to go on strike with their unions, so therefore they won’t be making money those days.  And also, striking will cause Iberia to lose even more money because flights will be cancelled which will hurt their chances more of keeping their jobs if the company keeps losing money.  I could be wrong… so you all can correct me, but whatever what is done is done!  I hope they can figure out a way for the employees to keep their jobs during the holidays.

My parents back home heard of the news and called right away to the booking agency STA Travel (which I would recommend to students traveling because they were very helpful!) and the lady helped us change my flights! I’m glad we called right away because there is no way I am staying in Spain past the original day I was supposed to leave, nor Christmas!  The lady had to call Iberia many times and fight to get my flights changed with out a fee, because now Iberia is not happy everyone is rescheduling.  But what do they expect when people are traveling home for the holidays??

It’s official now, that I will be home the 16th of December! I’m pretty excited to be coming home early, all I have to do is take my exams a week early.  But I’m ready to go home to my family and not like here with the hostmom anymore.  I’ll miss all my friends and professors here, but I can’t wait to be home for Christmas! :)

My trip to Barcelona has been one of my favorites thus far! Within the 4 days we were there we tried to hit up all the touristy spots:  La Sagrada Familia, La Boqueria, el puerto, Guadi’s park, Guadi’s houses, Barcelona futbol, and more!
We started out by taking the train from Alicante to Barcelona, it was a nice long early 6 hour train ride.  Of course once again the transportation system was hating me and my headphones didn’t work to watch the movie being played…. and they were playing Footloose! :/  We made it to Barcelona after  a nice long nap, and we walked to our hostel.  It was like a 25-30 minute walk with our backpacks and not all my friends appreciated the walk… but after doing the camino, this walk to the hostel was easy!

Art City Hostel

This hostel was pretty sweet.  It was only 2 months new so we had all new appliances, beds, and mattresses, but it’s located in a old building so the 2 owners are still remodeling.  The hostel was on La Rambla of Barcelona so a great location!  I would recommend the Art City Hostel to anyone traveling to Barcelona! They speak English too if that makes you any more interested… and no I did not just get paid to plug these people in my blog, I wish.

So the first day we tried going to see La Sagrada Familia basilica.  The church began being built in 1882 by the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi and STILL is not finished.  Supposedly, in about 80 years it may be complete, but who knows they may want to add another wing.  But getting ready in the hostel was not easy with so many people in our group, that not everyone in our group was ready to go on time (one of the negative parts of the only having like 5 bathrooms in a hostel) so when we got there there was a HUGE line already and we didn’t want to wait in the never ending linewrapped around the church.  So instead we took pictures of the outside and ended up going to Gaudi’s Park.

La Sagrada Familia

As you’ll see in this Barcelona Blog, Gaudi’s name is going to show up everywhere.  El park Guell was designed by Gaudi and is a huge park open to the public.  You can see some similarities in Gaudi’s work when you look at the park, the basilica, and the houses he designed in Barcelona.  This park had such unique architecture and lots of mosaic art pieces!  But it was a huge tourist trap, I would hate to be there on a hot day.

the park

Below is an example of a house  Gaudi designed… we didn’t enter them so I’m not quite sure of their significance or if anyone important ever lived there.  But they’re cool!

Gaudi House

La Boqueria was a market in the Gothic district of Barcelona which was one of my favorite parts of the trip!  It’s essentially like any market I could find in Alicante… but somehow cooler!  They had these amazing natural fruit juice drinks for 1 Euro and I tried so many of them, so delicious! And they sold everything there, from pigs faces, to live seafood, to pizza.  This is a great place to go for lunch!

Amazing fresh fruit juice!

lunch!

I went to Barcelona soccer game with some friends and it was such an awesome experience! Everyone has to know Spaniards love their soccer teams, so being at one of the games was incredible!  If you are considering going… make sure you buy your tickets like 2 weeks ahead of time! You can’t walk up the gates and expect to buy one.  Everyone at the game was so into it, they all had their flags and screamed when a goal was scored and jumped out of their seats.  Another one of the best parts of my trip!

Futbol Club Barcelona

Barcelona is a city where there is so much to do.  They also speak a ton of English.  In Spain there are 5 languages spoken and in Barcelona they speak Catalan because they’re from the region of Catalunya. And right now, I don’t quite understand, but there are talks that they want to secede from Spain.  I don’t think it’ll happen they just really love their region.  So when you go to visit Barcelona they’d rather speak English to you than Spanish because Spanish is different than Catalan.  So confusing, but I’m glad I didn’t choose to study in Barcelona otherwise I would never get to practice my Spanish!
P.S. Great night life! Clubs on the beach, but like 20 euro cover charges.  Something to experience!

Go visit Barcelona!

This upcoming Wednesday I don’t have classes because there is going to be a “huelga”.  Its going to be a protest of the whole city because Spain is in the middle of a terrible crisis.  I think the unemployment percentage of Spain is about 25%, and every day hundreds of people are evicted from their homes because they cannot pay their mortgages.  Chelo says that Alicante isn’t decorating the palm trees with Christmas lights this year because of the harsh economy.  They’re hoping to share the saved money with those families without food for the holidays.

We won’t have school because the buses won’t be running.  And they don’t expect us to walk an hour and half to school.  My teacher said that if we even make it to school, there will probably be students blocking the doors in protest.  Most businesses will be closed as well, mainly those who aid in public service, such as buses, airport attendants, pharmacies, and teachers.  But it is almost guaranteed that the bars will still be open during this day of protest.  When in crisis the bars always thrive! When the bars close, you know you’ve hit rock bottom.

I’m not sure how greatly this protest will help solve the grand problems Spain faces, however I hope they figure out something soon because I can see Spain is struggling to keep their heads up!

Disclaimer: This is NOT to discourage anyone from living with a family!!

Almost 97.3% of students in my program really love their families.  Host families typically have had tons of students before you, and they understand how American students usually like to live although while in Spain you are supposed to try and live like a Spaniard, not an American.  You also fill out a survey before you are given a family, and your program will use your survey about your self to judge which host family to put you with.  And you will most likely have a director of your homesetay program who should be always willing to talk with you about your family or sometimes they can talk to your host parents about any concerns.  Plus in your homestay family there is always people to practice the language with, and its a place to try new foods and learn the culture.  I would still recommend everyone to live with a family!

I’ve had some request to share some of the stories why my host mom can get on my nerves.  But first I’d just like to say I don’t hate my madre.  She makes a lot of good food, she always is making new foods to try, she allows me to have friends over to eat, study, or watch movies, and she keeps up a really nice apartment.  And she likes to tell me how nice and polite of a girl I am and my parents did a wonderful job raising me.  She has 2 older daughters with children who I see every once and a while and they’re nice to talk with too!

On the other hand…

  1. So here in Alicante the people are used to warmth, so if its like 70 degrees outside, its chilly.  So Chelo, mi madre, will wake me up in the night to put a blanket on me.  And make a racket shutting my windows.  Even if I explain 60-70 degrees is not cold.  She insists that I be cold and I wear another blanket – I think I know when I’m cold or not!  She actually told me “I just assume everyone is the same as me”
  2. Chelo is into fashion like a lot of Europeans.  But she likes to try and make me feel bad for what I wear.  Like I said, its still 70 degrees here so I think its still sandal weather.  But she will make me change my shoes before  I leave the house.  I’ve gotten better at saying no its sunny and 73 today I don’t think I need closed toe shoes.  Let me wear what I want!
  3. Calling me lazy.  So one day I got home from school at like 7pm and laid down on my bed.  Chelo walks in the house 10 minutes later and sees me laying down.  And she says *in Spanish* “Are you taking a nap? You’re being lazy.  Do you even know what the Camino de Santiago is going to be like? You’re going to have to walk so many kilometers a day.  Do you know how many kilometers – like 9″.  And I say “I am not lazy.  And I am going to be walking like 25 km a day.  I know what I am doing”  And she says “No, you don’t even know what ‘lazy’ means *in Spanish*”.  And I said “yes, I know what lazy means – when you don’t do anything, but I am not lazy”.  So she says “Ohhh so you do know what it means!”  That was one of the most furious things she’s done.  I never shut my bedroom door because in Spanish culture doors should be left open.  But I shut my door and went to bed.
  4. I hate lotion.  Especially lotion on my face.  When I got scabies I was very itchy, always itching my legs and once I itched my chin that had 1 tiny scabies mark.  So while I was eating dinner she got out a very old expired bottle of anti-itch cream and was about to put it on my face while I was eating.  And I politely said “no, I won’t itch my face, I would not like any lotion on my face”.  And she was about to do it anyways because Chelo knows best! So I had to yell no! So instead she just put it all over my legs.  While I was sitting at the dinner table eating.
  5. Whenever my laptop needs to be charged I plug it in.  Spaniards are very conscientious about their electricity bills and try to keep them low.  So when I plug it in , she unplugs it.  I have tried explaining it needs to be charged.  But she still unplugs everything.  However, she will leave a big flat screen plugged in for a large portion of the day.  And I don’t know if she understands how much electricity that uses.  And while I am reading for homework she will take my book and make me sit a different way so I can sit under a desk lamp instead of using the ceiling light that uses 2 lightbulbs instead of 1.  I’m all for saving electricity and water.  But let me be when I’m doing my homework.
  6. She will think I’m being antisocial if I’m doing homework at 9pm in my bedroom.  But if I were watching tv by myself it’d would appear as if I’m being more productive.  At first I thought maybe she wanted to spend more time with me, but she has told me a few times that she likes to watch tv by herself because she flips channels too much for other people’s liking.  Although on Wednesdays we watch “la Voz” – spanish version of The Voice – together.
  7. She makes false statements and won’t accept she is wrong.  Example: This is extra virgin olive oil from Spain. It is the best and will NOT make you fat.  It is true that olive oil in small amounts can be good for your heart.  It is false that it will not make you fat when you use 1/4 cups of olive oil on your salad and consume the whole 1/4 cups.  Nor is frying anything more healthy with olive oil when you use too much olive oil.  But if I disagree she just ignores it because she thinks she is right.  Also, smoking cigars is better than cigarettes is better simply because there is no nicotine in cigars.  There may not be nicotine but there usually aren’t filters on cigars which makes it just as bad to smoke them.
  8. Sometimes I feel like a burden on Chelo and she has a lot of things going on in her life and I’m just someone else getting in the way.  Like I feel like she thinks she needs to be home to heat up leftovers in the microwave for dinner for me.  Even though I am fully capable of using the microwave.  I don’t like feeling that she has to rearrange her life just for me! If she is busy I am sure I can take care of myself.

Overall, I think our personalities really clash.  I’m not the afectionate type of person who says “I love you” to everyone, and gives lots of hugs and kisses when I come home from school.  Nor do I like to be kissed on the cheek while I’m half asleep in bed or be tucked in.  I think this hoststay madre would be better off with someone more like her!

Moral of the story: Talk with your homestay director if you think you have a tiny problem!  Resolve the problems quickly!

One philosophy I have in life is that you can’t have expectations (or just very little) before doing something. I’m not sure if that’s the best way to live life but as Shakespeare has said “expectation is the root of all heartache”.  So if I had to give any advice to future study abroaders about adapting to a new home and culture, I would say go into your program with an open mind.  I think it’s important to choose the right program to study with so you feel comfortable with the people you will be working with, but be ready to go into culture shock, and don’t expect it to be easy!  Having an open mind will help you to adapt to the new culture changes you experience during the semester away and adapting to the cultural differences will enhance your experience while abroad… its better than fighting them!

I want to tell you about the challenges I faced when I moved to Alicante and how I overcame some of those challenges.

One of the initial cultural shocks I faced was adapting to the times we eat meals, the quantity of food, and the types of food.  In Spain, you eat a little breakfast before class, go home at 2 and eat a giant lunch, and eat a smaller ration for dinner around 10 (or whenever your host mom makes food).  The best way I can tell you to adapt to this is to start off eating when they normally eat.  Even if your body says its not hungry at that time, try and eat a little at least to get your body accustomed to the changes, I think all host madres are very understanding to the fact your body isn’t used to it yet.  This is actually supposed to help stop jet lag too! Also, when going to a new place your body needs to adjust to the food you’re eating from a new region of the world, so your digestive system may take some time to adapt.  I suggest you bring Tums! Don’t be afraid to try new foods while you’re abroad.  My host madre says she likes me because I try all types of foods but I’m honest when  I don’t like it.  I never liked seafood in America but I am studying along the Mediterranean Coast where they eat tons of seafood.  I try all the seafood my madre cooks for herself.  I still don’t like seafood unfortunately… but hey at least I’m being open minded about trying new things!

Allowing your body adjust to the food may be a more physical part of adapting to a new culture, but for me adjusting to the way of life in Spain can be somewhat challenging to accept.  At first when I arrived I loved it all: the Spanish nap time, the beach everyday, the hot weather, and my madre who cooks me all my food, cleans my room, and packs me lunches.  Then, everything kind of changed…classes got busier and I couldn’t take a 3 hour daily nap, the weather in October is in the upper 60’s and 70’s and isn’t “prime” beach time anymore, and my madre now gets on my nerves quite often.  So how did I adjust?

I’m in a Spanish popular culture class where we read literature and discuss what we see every day life on the street, in our classes, at the beach, or at our homes.  This helps us talk out our problems adapting to these strange things we see or experience.  Our teacher is an anthropologist so she really loves studying cultures and she is not biased about the Spanish culture so she helps us figure out why the culture can be so different.  We learned that really you only take naps in Spain if you have the time between class or work, beach season dies down in October because people go back to work after their summer vacations which last until September in Spain.  And everyone always has a good homestay family to share.  Being able to talk to people is really important in helping to adjust, as well as having an open mind about the new culture.  Especially being able to come to terms with things you don’t agree with, like the Spanish people who feel its ok to cut you off while you’re speaking.  In America it’s poor manners to talk while someone else is talking, and our parents and schools teach us not to do this.  But here, they are raised thinking its ok, so you can’t be shy and afraid to jump in a conversation… its ok to cut someone off to get your words in!

One thing I am having problems with adjusting to is my host madre.  I live in an apartment with only mi madre and she can get on my nerves.  I learned in my popular culture class that moms in Spain can be overwhelming at times; they like to do EVERYTHING for you, and know what is going on in your life, and baby you.  Also, its ok to walk around in their underwear or leave the bathroom door open while they’re peeing.  At first I was pretty shocked to hear that my madre leaves her bathroom door open.  But I remembered that I am coming into their life to live like a Spaniard and learn their culture so I really just have to accept that this is how they like to live in their homes.  However, this doesn’t mean I have to walk around in my underwear in my apartment or leave the bathroom door open.  But you can’t live comfortably if you can’t accept their customs.  But on the other hand, I am still trying to get used to my mother’s overbearing personality.  My friends and I like to share stories about our host family, and I think mine wins the most crazy award.  She wakes me up from naps to put blankets on me.  Or constantly unplugs my charging computer when I leave a room.  Or tells me not to wear sandals because its not “fall fashion”.  After 2 months in Alicante I am still trying to work on figuring out how I can adapt to my host madre.  None of the other host madre’s are like this with my friends.  I think at host parent orientation they are told that American’s like their space and if their door is shut they may need a bit of personal time.  But my host mom just knocks and comes right in to bother me even if I’m really trying to study with the door shut.  I’m trying to accept the fact that Spanish parents tend to be over protective, but this is still a work in progress.

To sum this long post up:

  1. have an open mind
  2. don’t be afraid to accept the new culture – it doesn’t mean it has to be something you also believe in ie: going to the bathroom with the door open
  3. Talking to the natives of the culture about the differences.  They sometimes can be the best people to piece together your curiosities.
  4. Don’t expect this to happen overnight!

Scabies Update:

I can’t tell if I’m getting new bumps or if old bumps are flaring up when they itch.  So I used a pen and circled all of the bumps on my hands where its the worst.  Then I took a picture of my hands.  So now if I have a new itch I look and see if that Scabie was there when I took the picture.  I like to think of myself as clever sometimes.  But this helps me not freak out.  I hope I am scabies free though!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.