Bittersweet (After Study Abroad)


My semester in Salamanca, Spain, has come to an end, but I thought I would look back at my time here. This post will reflect on newly discovered Spanish culture and can be a guide for students who decide to study abroad in Spain. When I came to Spain, I knew it would be different from my American culture, but thought it would be similar to my Guatemalan culture. Boy was I wrong!  

The first thing I learned when I arrived in Salamanca was that when you greet people you give two kisses, one on each cheek, even if they are strangers to you. For example, when I first met my host dad at the bus stop I was told to give two kisses, so I did. But when I met new Spanish friends I had to do the same. I got used to it after a while and fear that I will be doing that when I get back to the states.

The second thing I learned after a day at my new Spanish home with my host family was that Spaniards don’t say "thank you" a lot, they just assume. I am used to saying "thank you" for pretty much everything, but after a week in Spain I learned that it is useless to say it. Another thing I learned besides "thank you" was that I had to use a different form of "you". Instead of saying "usted", the formal "you," I had to use "tu" which is the informal way of saying "you." Apparently, to my host mom, when I used the formal "you" I made her feel old. It took some time until I could call her the informal way because in my culture, anyone older than me should be referred in the formal way. I think I started using the informal way towards the end of the semester. Yikes.   

Coffee and other warm drinks: In Spain and other places in Europe, coffee is stronger than the one in the US. I learned this when I ordered a coffee and I got an espresso with milk. Also it is weird if you ask for an iced coffee. They will just give you a cup of coffee and a separate cup with ice. Yes they will give you an unusual stare, but hey, I needed my iced-coffee. Speaking about warm stuff, have you heard that Spain has something popular called "chocolate con churros"? Yes its thick, yummy chocolate with churros that you dip and eat. I’m going to miss that.

And staying with the topic of food, meals here are different. First, breakfast is early in the morning and it consists of a small pastry and coffee, that’s it. American breakfast is suppose to be big and fit for a king, but here in Spain its smaller and I will tell you why; it’s because you don’t want to be full when lunch comes around. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and the most respected because it’s a time when the whole family comes together to spend time. In Salamanca, all shops, bakeries, buildings close during the hours from 2 PM to 5 PM, which are lunch time and siesta time. Yes, siestas, my favorite time of the day.    

One thing I won’t miss from Spain is all the smoking. Almost everyone smokes here, from young teens to adults to elderly couples—they all smoke up a storm. Every time I went to class at the University Pontificia de Salamanca, I had to get past all the student smokers who were right in front of the university doors. Yup.  

Do you like partying? Because I do! And apparently Spanish college students in Salamanca do, too, but the party doesn’t start until 12 AM. Bars are open all day and most of the night, but clubs here don’t open until midnight. And you won’t believe what time they leave the clubs. They leave bars around 7 AM. Yeah, in the US we usually stop partying at 3 AM or 4 AM—unless you are a really hard partier. Spaniards leave the clubs at 7 AM because clubs close at that time, but they may keep partying elsewhere. It was fun trying to keep up, but I don’t think I ever stayed up until 7 AM, not with all the work I had for class.   

Looking back I can say I had the most amazing time abroad. I made new friends from all over the US and some Spanish friends. I am going to miss the Spanish culture and especially my host family who taught me so much about the country. Saying goodbye was hard, but all I can say is that someday I will return to Spain.  ¡Hasta luego España! 

And, hello US!