The Things I’ve Learned (so you don’t have to)

I want to get this out there: I was not planning on making a blog. At all. My experiences haven’t been that crazy, I’m not an exceptional writer, and I’m really not very good with technology. However, since I’ve been on this trip, I’ve learned a bunch of things that maybe would have been nice to know before heading across the ocean. It is for that reason that I decided to start a blog. Because if it helps even one person to understand a little better before they go on a trip, or to help expand your cultural understanding of the world, or even just to provide some entertainment with these things I’ve found out the awkward way, I’ll be happy.

Now, some backstory. Lauren, 21, born and raised Sconnie, UW Madison Spanish/Linguistics major. My entire world was about a 20 minute radius from campus. I grew up in a suburb of Madison, then continued on to attend the best university ever (go badgers!) about 15 minutes away from my house. Pros of college-living 15 minutes from home: free laundry, home-cooked meals, cuddling with animals whenever you want, can hang with mom when your friends are all gone, etc. Cons: your bubble is pretty dang small. My boyfriend is from Minnesota, which means the furthest I’d ever traveled alone was the 5 hour drive to his house. Pretty insignificant when it comes to seeing the world. And I don’t mean to make this sound like a bad thing, it’s super handy to live close to home! Madison is big enough that you can make it as big city or small town as you want. And, when I got ridiculously, seriously sick last year, I was able to go home and have my mom nurse me back to health (thanks, mom!!!). But as a Spanish major, and even just as a college student, I felt the need to explore the world, to expand my bubble. If we go back a few years, back to freshman year of high school, 15 year old Lauren had a Spanish teacher who was basically the coolest teacher ever. She was (is) funny and witty and pretty and quickly became my role model. Over the years, I worked with her to provide peer tutoring and random help outside of class with cutting out posters or whatever, eventually we became friends outside of school, to the point that I helped her move into her house and babysat her daughter. We stayed in contact when I went to college, but it was hard to maintain a close relationship. I was trying to figure out how to be independent, and she was teaching every day of every week. But back when we were close, she had instilled a dream in me, one that had already been forming since the initial push to study a language in middle school. To study abroad. Which sounds pretty lame, since so many people do it every year at every university ever. But she taught me that the best way to learn a language is to go live it. So I knew, since approximately freshman year of high school, if not a little before that, that it was something I’d wanted to do. I was set on Spain. And though I didn’t decide Seville until I was comparing programs, some part of me thinks it was fate, because it just so happens that’s where my teacher had studied, too.

Back to the present: I left home for second semester of my junior year, and after a terrifying and tear-filled, panicky, excruciatingly-long flight, I landed in Seville, Spain on January 8th, 2016. I’m living with a host family in one of the suburban areas of the city with a host mom, host dad, and little host sister (11). I’ve been here for a little over a month now, and it’s exactly like I expected and nothing like I expected at the same time. But it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and I’m doing things every day that I never thought I’d actually do. I have to pinch myself daily, to remind myself that this is my reality. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really hard, being in another culture and language 24/7 is really difficult, and attending a university in a foreign language is exhausting AF. But the pros so far outweigh the cons that it’s like comparing a forest to a twig. You have to accept that the cons exist, but it can’t stop you from going and exploring.

Anyway, I’ve learned a bunch of things just about the culture or the language that I’ve found remarkably interesting or confusing, and many of the questions I had before leaving I’ve since found the answers to. I did a significant amount of research trying to find out what to expect, like what do they really wear, what cultural differences are there, what’s the food like, etc. without many answers. Since I’ve been here, I’ve also found a surplus of other cultural differences that I wasn’t expecting…. and I’ve decided to share. So, with that in mind, here you go!

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