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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Alyssa in Spain

Notes from Abroad is a new feature on the Off-Campus Programs website, in which we highlight small snippets of a student’s experience.  This week’s feature is from Alyssa Reyes ’17, a double major in Education and English Literature and a minor in Spanish currently studying abroad in Spain.


Adapting to a New Culture

I have not even been in Spain for two months yet, and I already feel like I have grown so much from the culture alone. This is my not only my first time studying abroad, it is also my first time ever leaving the country, so I expected there to be an enormous cultural shock, but the things that were shocking to me were not the things I expected. I was not shocked by the language difference and amount of Spanish I heard, I was shocked by the amount of people who knew three or more languages and could fluidly switch between them. Being bilingual is a norm in Spain because the school system is making it mandatory to learn English at a young age and another language in high school. I was not shocked that the food was different from what I had expected, but I was shocked by the eating schedule and way that we eat dinner. In Spain, breakfast is around 8 am, lunch is around 2:30 pm, and dinner is around 9 pm. Also, every single meal is sitting down with the family and, aside from breakfast, a three course meal eaten on fine china. Meals are much less formal with American families, but I love the way spending time with family is ingrained into the Spanish culture.

All of the things that caught me off guard were things that I adjusted to quickly, and I absolutely love it here in Spain. The only thing that is still hard for me now is language acquisition and being apart from my family. I would definitely be willing to live in Spain for the rest of my life if only I could bring my family with me. They warned us beforehand, but nothing can really prepare you for being so far away. What has helped me with homesickness is staying busy: surrounding myself with new friends and going to new places. When I remember that I will see my family again and only have now to enjoy the opportunity to live in Spain, the homesickness is not so bad. When I return to this part of the world, the circumstances will be so different and I probably will be very limited on time, but this program and my scholarships have allowed me to live and truly experience life in Europe, and I am so grateful.