“I believe my favorite part about studying abroad so far is being able to observe how differently individuals live their lives in different countries, yet they still surprise you by having a shocking amount in common as well.”
[follow id = “samgilbert279”]
Sam Gilbert is a journalism junior and Mustang News study abroad columnist.
Well, it’s official: the two-month mark since the day I arrived in Europe has come and gone. The quarter is halfway over.
I always knew this day would come, but I didn’t anticipate how incredibly fast time would fly by.
Once I reflect back on this journey, it all makes sense because I’ve had the craziest, most incredible and eye-opening experiences of my life thus far.
Hey, time flies when you’re having fun, right?
October created an absurd amount of memories for me, as I have never traveled to so many various parts of the world in so little time.
I originally expected the biggest struggle would be the adjustment from speaking only English in the United States to living in San Sebastian, a country that primarily focuses on Spanish and Basque.
Turns out the whirlwind of traveling to Amsterdam, Portugal, Barcelona and then back to San Sebastian did the trick.
After a month of living out of a backpack, it’s safe to say Spain’s culture is the opposite of what I’m used to in America.
I’m all for immersing myself into a brand new lifestyle, but there’s no denying I felt relieved once I realized English is spoken by almost all constituents in Amsterdam and Portugal.
Let’s get real, it’s a little bizarre when an instructor can’t understand what I’m trying to say when I just need to print a paper from the copy machine.
Maybe I’m even worse at Spanish than I thought, but I’m guessing I’m not the only one with these difficulties.
However, as frustrating as that was, I believe there was an exact moment when it hit me how vastly different Spain is from America: once I took on an assistant teaching position at Axular Lizeoa, a local school.
I originally signed up for the job to earn a little extra cash, but I didn’t realize how much I would truly get out of the process.
First of all, the school has classes for students from two to 18 years old. Let that sink in.
Aren’t kids still in diapers at age two?
When I found that out on the first day, I was blown away that they have children that haven’t even said their first word mixed in with students preparing for college in a year.
Truth be told, I’m decently awkward around little kids, but luckily I was set up to teach three classes with teenagers at the ages of 14, 15 and 17.
I’m not even sure if they understood what I was saying that fateful first day of class. All I know is that their names are difficult to pronounce, and I was laughed at every time I attempted to roll my r’s.
Another interesting aspect I picked up on was they don’t celebrate Halloween in Spain. I was put through the third degree about it, which I hadn’t even realized was a unique American characteristic.
I gave a presentation on this sacred holiday, and they were wide-eyed when I showed them pictures of jack-o’-lanterns and haunted houses.
I’d also never seen so much excitement as I did when I pulled out a bag of candy and they all said “trick-or-treat” for the first time.
Although the cultural differences are endless, there was one thing my class and I could all agree on: music.
One student informed me they enjoy listening to American music, even though they don’t always understand what the words mean.
Unfortunately, nobody shares the same love for Taylor Swift that I have, but I was excited to hear about the universal love for a lot of the same artists.
I believe my favorite part about studying abroad so far is being able to observe how differently individuals live their lives in different countries, yet they still surprise you by having a shocking amount in common as well.
Now that I’m halfway done with my journey, I’m more appreciative for this opportunity than ever, and I can’t wait to see what these next two months of living in San Sebastian’s paradise has to offer.