I decided to major in Spanish when I finished high school. I felt that it would be the most useful and it came naturally to me. I knew I would eventually have to study abroad. I wanted to study abroad because in all of my Spanish classes, my teachers constantly told me I wouldn’t pick up the language until I was fully immersed in the culture. My senior year of college, I moved to Alcalá de Henares, Spain for fall semester.
The flight from Chicago to Spain was about 8 hours. It was the longest I had ever been on a plane. I remember feelings of anticipation, nervousness and excitement. I was really looking forward to leaving the United States for the first time and excited about the prospect of improving my Spanish skills as well as seeing what life in Spain was all about. When I first arrived, only one of my bags made it. It was my first time going through customs and therefore my first passport stamp! Also, since my flight had arrived late there was nobody waiting for me in the terminal. Luckily, I had been prepared for this so I took a cab to my host family’s house. Upon arrival, I met my host mother Fabiola, her two kids Cristina and Oscar. She then showed me to my room which was nice but also quite small compared to American standards. My roommate had not yet arrived.
Over the course of my semester in Spain, I learned a lot. My Spanish drastically improved. I had the opportunity to go to Morocco with a program called Moroccan Exchange. I became well versed in some of the not so pleasant things in Spain, like being followed around in stores, hearing catcalls in the street, and being followed home on the bus, and most of all the costly Euro. I also learned about the ups and downs of living with a host family.
Living with a host family can be a good thing but it can also have its challenges. For example, I wasn’t really allowed to cook so if I didn’t like what my host mother cooked then I either ate what she made or I had to buy something Also, there were times when my host mother tried to impose a curfew or made comments about my roommate and I coming home too late. That was awkward at best because at the time I was very much an adult but since it was her house, I did have to respect her wishes.Some of my favorite things to do when I lived in Alcalá was hanging out in Plaza de Cervantes. The plaza is basically an open courtyard where people come to spend time with friends, family, and just to relax. I recall in the plaza in Alcalá, there was a huge dance floor and sometimes people would dance on Sunday evenings. I also enjoyed going to Madrid on the weekends to go out and explore the nightlife. Madrid was only 30 minutes on the train so most students went to Madrid on the weekends for fun. It was also a place where you could meet other foreign students who were studying abroad. I recall one night some other students and I went to Kapital. It’s a club in Madrid which boasts 6 dance floors and is open until 6 am. The metro stopped running at 12 so we stayed out until the club closed. It was so much fun. I’m not sure that I could pull an all nighter like that now but it was fun while it lasted. I fell in love with Spanish cuisine too. My favorite by far was Paella. Paella if you’re not familiar, is basically a seafood dish that is mixed with rice. It was quite tasty. I also loved the Spanish tortilla that my host mother was a pro at making. The only Spanish food I wasn’t a fan of was the croquetas. I really didn’t like the texture of them but for some reason my host mother loved to make them.