The May 2015 Spain group poses in front of the historical mountain in the village of Guadalest, Alicante, the second most visited tourist attraction site in Spain, and where Spanish modernist writer Gabriel Miró spent time seeking inspiration for his work.
Oct 1, 2015
From Lakeland to Tampa, from New York to Madrid, from Madrid to Alicante — after traveling for two days and enduring a six-hour time change, we were finally in España!!! We hadn’t showered, brushed our teeth, or gotten quality rest, but we didn’t care because we had finally made it to a new place that we would call home for the next month.
From Plane to Spain
Riding on the bus, the countryside didn’t seem very foreign. It actually looked like the great state of Arizona — dry, barren, and mountainous. When we arrived in Alicante and got off the bus to meet our host families, we were immediately hit in the face with the sting of culture shock; having to use Spanish to communicate right away was difficult!
Upon our first steps out of the bus, we faced a world of transition that was initially uncomfortable and eventually became second nature as the days passed. Thirty-one days would be the length of our journey and little did we know how our lives would change once we were forced to speak the language, live the culture, and be with the people who so graciously welcomed us for our month-long stay in Alicante, Spain.
From 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, my peers were found in class studying at Proyecto Español, a program with the highest academic quality accreditation in Spanish teaching! All of the teachers there are very friendly and funny implementing a hands-on teaching style that kept us engaged. Based on the individual student’s competency level in Spanish, all FSC students were divided.
My favorite part about this was having class with other students from all around the world. I met people from Holland, Germany, Kazakhstan, China, and Korea. One day, I had to work on a group project with a Chinese student. He didn’t know English, and I don’t know Chinese, so we were forced to communicate in Spanish — our common language that we were both still learning. That was one of the coolest experiences! I was actually using my Spanish and the more I did so, the more I became fluent and comfortable in speaking.
In addition to class time, Proyecto led us on many guided tours throughout Spain. We explored “el barrio” (the neighborhood), the Castle of Santa Barbara, and various churches all within our city of Alicante. We also took dance lessons to learn salsa and bachata, and one day, we threw in some Zumba!
A lot of laughs were shared on these days, and everyone had a lot of fun. Other travels throughout Spain included trips to neighboring cities of Elche, Villa Joyosa, Altea, and Guadalest. We also visited more distant locations such as Valencia and Barcelona. My favorite city was Barcelona because of its history and the architecture within this ancient city. A tourist destination for sure, Barcelona has both La Sagrada Familia, a large Roman Catholic church and Camp Nou, a football (soccer) stadium.
Built by the famous architect Antoni Gaudi, La Sagrada Familia is an unfinished Catholic basilica that has been under construction for the last 133 years. Its magnificence is breathtaking and its grandeur is incomparable. There is nothing else like it anywhere in the world.
Camp Nou is the home stadium of the Futbol Club Barcelona that any sports fan can surely appreciate. There, I moved through the stadium in awe as we started in the museum with all of its trophies and memorabilia, then walked throughout the press room and locker room, directly onto the field, up through the stadium seats and into the box seating, and finally into the three-floor gift shop. All I have to say now is “Go Barca!”
Customs & Culture
Spain has a truly European atmosphere. The Spanish language itself is even different in dialect from the Spanish spoken in Latin or Central American countries, with its own accents and words. Culture is also distinct. At all times, Spaniards can be found walking very well dressed – no sweatpants for them. They always look presentable and put together. Other cultural distinctions that are particular to Spaniards include the manner in which bills and tips are handled in restaurants, and daytime rest periods are scheduled. Nightlife is also experienced quite differently!
In restaurants, it is appropriate to notify the servers when the meal is done. There is typically only one check per table, and there are no tips. During the afternoons on any given day between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m., a siesta, or rest period, is administered. Unlike popular belief, most people do not take naps. However, storeowners are required by law to shut down for the afternoon and reopen later in the day, but upon discussion with some of them, they are productive during that time. At night, everyone can be found out on the town between Thursdays and Saturdays. Spaniards typically eat dinner late every night around 9:00, and many stay out sometimes as late as 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. on the weekends.
The main food staples include bread, paella, and ham and cheese. Bread is served at every meal, and there are several panaderias (bread shops) on each street. Paella is very famous and can be found at almost every restaurant. It’s a rice dish with a combination of meats, vegetables, and seafood. Also, the ham there is considered of the best quality worldwide, and is very inexpensive compared to U.S. prices. It is often served cold with cheese and sliced very thin. Huge hams can be found hanging in most shops, as they are salted and waiting to be sliced and served.
Another signature food is the churro! Originally from Spain, the idea of the churro eventually moved to other places throughout the world. In Spain, these sweet delights are lightly sprinkled with sugar, and are served with a hot cup of liquid chocolate for dipping. Gelato is also very popular. Lastly, coffee is a big hit! It’s much stronger than what we’re used to in the states, and many students were sad to leave it behind.
A month away from home in a foreign country with a different language and new customs and traditions gave us a new perspective of the world. We lived outside of our comfort zones and learned about another country and its customs. But the reassuring feeling of coming home never goes away. We are blessed to be able to see the world and travel, but we are even more blessed to live in the United States of America. All in all, our journey to Spain, made possible by Florida Southern College, was a great opportunity for all of us students to gain a broader global perspective of life outside America.
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