“¡Hola!” from Valencia, Spain! It’s hard to believe that in one week I will have been living in Spain for two months. Ever since the beginning of the semester, I have been planning trips throughout Europe, with my eyes set on the middle of March for all of my trips and suddenly, it’s here! As I prepare myself for all of my upcoming travels, I can’t help but start feeling overly attached to Valencia… part of me doesn’t want to leave for long periods of time, but the other part of me is screaming “go see the world!” At the end of March, I will be staying put in Valencia, save certain weekends, so I can still appreciate what my beautiful city has to offer.
Living in Valencia has taught me very valuable things and has given me many new perspectives on life. Because I have never lived in a city before, my experience with living in Valencia has been a positive one so far. This experience is made even better by living with my wonderful host mother and host sister. Every day I eat basically a gourmet meal (compared to Wheaton food… sorry Wheaton) consisting of literally the best Spanish food I will ever eat. However, by the end of the semester I may never be able to eat bread again, after eating it with every dish. I have also had the opportunity to speak more Spanish than I ever thought I would be capable of, which definitely boosts my confidence with the language daily! But there are always those awkward moments at the grocery store checkout line when the cashier asks, “do you want a bag?” and you have to ask her what she is saying. You can’t win ‘em all, folks.
As for the valuable things, I have learned how to cross the city streets without almost dying and I have spent many hours in cafes, mooching off of their Wi-Fi to avoid wasting my mobile data. I have learned how to confidently book flights and hostels, which I never thought I would be able to do… and my trips are always a success! I discovered that mushrooms are actually tasty and that “paella” actually refers to the pan the rice is cooked on, not the rice itself. I’ve learned plenty in my classes too, of course… but learning about food is important too.
As for my new perspectives on life, my world is constantly being flipped upside down. The most world-shattering moment I have experienced was when my sociolinguistics professor told my class that “café con leche” or “coffee with milk” is actually the opposite of its name. In fact, “café con leche” is actually more like “leche con café” or “milk with coffee” and in the United States, our coffee is actually more like “café con leche”, with a lot of coffee and very little milk. This was a painful moment because I became incredibly proud of myself for all of the hot coffee I was drinking, until I learned that there is hardly any coffee in my completely undersized cup.
Another aspect of Spanish living that is hard to handle is when it is 70 degrees outside and people are still wearing winter jackets. The worst part is, that the second you start wearing shorts or leaving your jacket at home in this weather; people will just stare at you like you’re crazy. Life gets a little rough when I try not to look too American, but if I try to look European I’ll have a heat stroke.
Finally, over the past few months, I have learned to love the euro. At first, it was annoying carrying around a wallet full of change. But now, having change is a dream come true. I’ll do anything to break a 20-euro bill for a few one-euro coins. One and two euro coins make me feel like I’m the richest woman in the world.
I am having the best time over here in Spain and I am so proud to tell people that I go to Wheaton when they ask where I am from. Many students from the big schools don’t know about Wheaton and I am so happy to tell them all about it! I love being abroad, but I can’t help but miss my friends and family, and the students and professors back at Wheaton. Two months down and two to go on my European adventure- wish me luck!
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