By: Abby Cooney ’11
As I set out preparing for my study-abroad experience in Spain, I was incredibly nervous; for some reason more nervous than I had ever been in my life. I ended up sitting down and trying to figure out what the reason for all this anxiety was. I wasn’t worried about leaving my friends or family, was excited to improve my Spanish skills, and thrilled to go live in another country. So what was the big problem? I finally pinpointed it to the fact that I was terrified of living with a host family. Absolutely petrified. I’d heard stories from my friends about how they really enjoyed living with a family, but I couldn’t even think about living in a room that didn’t have my things and with a family that wasn’t mine. I think that if study abroad wasn’t a requirement, I may have opted out. What a stupid decision that would have been. I am living with an amazing host mom who has given me incredible insight into numerous topics.
Spanish culture focuses on lunch as the major meal, with everyone coming home at 2:30 to eat. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. My mother, Maribel, is a lovely cook and food is not an issue here. In fact, I’ve been more adventurous in trying food that I would never EVER go anywhere near in the U.S. I found out that I love fish and chips, chorizo and tortilla espanola and don’t particularly like the local specialty- jeta (fried pig cheek) or calamari. We generally eat both meals at home with Maribel, and it allows us regular time to talk and bond. Lunchtime conversation ranges from what we learned in class, what’s happening in Spain, to our opinions on anything and everything. Through these I have created an indelible bond with both my mother and my roommate. I have learned and benefited incredibly from living with a family, and I don’t think that could ever be replicated in a classroom setting.
I keep reassuring myself that having these moments of quiet and rest are ok. I have to keep telling myself that I’m not the usual tourist. I’m not scrambling around trying to see everything this town has to offer in a weekend or so. I can sit down and enjoy talking to my mom, I can go to the park at dusk and watch the bats fly around without feeling pressured, or even take a two hour siesta without having a guilty conscience. As I’m sitting in the bar and talking with friends for two hours at a time, I’m absorbing the culture in this very traditional act and learning so much more than I ever anticipated and loving every single moment!