Sometimes I feel like I’ve been transported back to my freshmen year of college where your parents drop you off at a new environment and you have to just fend for yourself, make new friends, and figure it all out. Adjusting is difficult; especially since I’ve never been abroad before. I knew I had to get myself as involved as possible with the Spanish culture otherwise I would go crazy with too much time on my hands.
My roommate, Jasmine, and I started to go to intercambios which are just language exchanges where people from all over the world meet at a central location and just talk. If you want to learn more spanish you find a local and start talking with them, if you’re a local hoping to learn more English you find someone who speaks English. At the first intercambio I went to, Jasmine and I met a few people around our age who we really clicked with. Two of them are from the UK and the other is a local who has lived in Sevilla all of his life. One of the people from the UK is spending a year here to study while the other is here doing software programming for a couple years. We spent a lot of the night chatting in Spanish and English and at the end of the night we made plans to go rock climbing together that Sunday. The intercambio was supposed to last from 9-11:30 so by the time I left I figured it was about 11:30- it turns out it was actually 1:30 am and we had stayed long past the intended end of the event. I was quite surprised I had let all that time slip away without noticing but it was cool to get so wrapped up in conversation that I had not even thought it might be past 11:30 (It also helped that I don’t like checking my phone at bars/restaurants and I only wear an analog clock that I’m still learning how to read).
On Sunday my body hated me. We spent two hours at the rock climbing facility where we met a few other students who were in Sevilla studying and a couple pros that knew what they were doing and willing to share tips and tricks. The first hour went well and I felt energized and confident, but by the end of the first hour my body was begging me to slow down. I’ve never had the arm strength to do a push-up let alone lift my entire body up with one arm. There was one path where you had to start hanging by your arms and then like jump up without touching the ground and I spent at least an hour trying, but was unsuccessful. I watched as multiple people did it with ease, but I just could not figure it out. I left feeling a little unsatisfied with myself for not being able to complete it, but confident that I would have a chance to redeem myself when I went back.
One of the more important adjustments that has been difficult for me is the eating times. I knew coming into Spain that everything is later: lunch, dinner, the going out time, siesta time, ect, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be for me to fully adapt. At school I usually just eat a lot of snacks during my classes or I’ll eat around noon and then eat an energizing snack before frisbee practice at 4. In Sevilla, not a single soul east lunch before 2. When I asked my host mother if I could eat at 1:30 because I had class at 2 she looked at me like I had three heads and seemed almost disappointed. She wasn’t reacting that way to be rude, it was just very out of the norm for her and she liked eating with us, but was unwilling to do so at 1:30 (Luckily twice a week and on the weekends we eat lunch with her because we don’t have class at 2 everyday). The first week I also had to get used to eating a lot of soup and salad drenched in olive oil. Usually I like to eat my salads dry because it’s better for you and I like vegetables on their own, but I will say that I’ve come to really like the salad with dressing. Even when she just puts lettuce, corn, and olive oil on a plate and calls it salad I still tend to enjoy it. I’ve also had a lot of gazpacho and vegetable soup which I do enjoy, but I did have to get used to the smaller portions of each. At home and school I am a big eater because I’m generally super active so that was a bit of an adjustment as well. One day I mentioned something to Becka, a friend of mine living in the residence halls, about the smaller portions and I could have sworn Aurelia heard me somehow because since that day I’ve never had a problem being hungry after meals. I was also worried that I would not be able to get used to going out later, but honestly the siestas in the middle of the day can make or break a night out. If I’ve had a siesta the day of or before I go out I’m set to go, but if I haven’t had one in a while let’s just say #kidcanthang.
Getting into a routine is the key to success. It’s something you’ll hear from anyone who goes somewhere new for a long period of time because it is the most important part of adapting. For me this routine meant getting used to late meals, making plans to go out with friends on the weekends so I could stay active, going to the market every Saturday, journaling in Plaza de Espana at least once a week, and discovering new cafes or parts of Sevilla. These past two weekends in Sevilla I’ve dedicated a lot of time to just walking around and acquainting myself with the city. I adore the fact that I live 5 minutes from Plaza de Espana, but I also find it important to know what else is around me. I’ve found a few really great cafes in the cute, hippie-ish district of Alameda and there’s a big district of stores with thin roads that I’ve learned are not supposed to be biked on after having the police glare at me as I walked/kinda rode with my bike. I was also super lucky to be able to find a frisbee team here that practice weekly as well as a fellow runner who is willing to run around the city with me after our spanish class. I really love the walkability of everything because it has allowed me to get to know the city better and experience all that Sevilla has to offer.