I have way dropped the ball on blogging for WeAreIU.com about my trip abroad. I guess I must have just been too busy having a spectacular time in Spain and experiencing the culture or something like that. However, I did keep a pretty extensive blog here: http://www.chargeittothebursar.tumblr.com. It's my blog. Once you get past the Spain stuff, that's just me procrastinating, so I would stop after that. But if you are really interested, check that one out. Now moving on to an actual post...
I never thought being without a phone would be a blessing, but while studying abroad I realized that I can survive without technology. This summer I studied abroad for six weeks in Salamanca, Spain. I traveled to a different city every weekend in earnest hopes of seeing more aspects of their culture, but my time spent in Salamanca is when I fell in love with the Spanish way of life. Once I adopted this lifestyle, Spain was a whole new country.
My grammar teacher was always telling us that Spanish is a living language, and if we make a mistake, it is said, and move forward. We would still be understood. This made our classroom environment much more relaxed. Our teacher told us jokes in Spanish, all of which needed to be explained slowly, but by creating this fun ambiance we all talked more fluidly. Then in my conversation class we discussed the difference between countries, and our teacher was shocked at how little vacation time people in the United States receive. She explained to us that Spaniards live to have fun, but work to live, whereas in the US, people live to work, and relax to live.
I saw this in Salamanca. In the evening before dinner, old and young people alike would gather in the Plaza Mayor and just catch up with each other. You didn’t see them on their cell phones trying to Instagram how amazing of a time they were having, or making sure everyone on Facebook knew they had friends. With our group that traveled from IU, none of us had smart phones that worked without WiFi in Spain, and this helped us actually enjoy each other. Yes we still took pictures, but we were not absorbed with tagging each other 20 seconds after it was taken. This allowed us to partake in the culture and live the Spanish lifestyle.
Every weekend I went to a new place, because while in Spain, I wanted to see everything. The first weekend I ventured to Pamplona for the Sanfermines festival, more commonly known as the running of the bulls. We made it in time for the Chupinazo, the opening ceremony. Thousands of people crowd in the square around a stage, bodies touching bodies, while sangria, wine, Fanta naranja, champagne, and other various liquids are sprayed on everyone. Conveniently, the traditional outfit of the festival-goer is all white with a red handkerchief and a red belt scarf, so the red wine accentuates your white clothes. It was an amazing festival, and not just because of the thousand pound animals they let loose in the street, but because of how truly Spanish it was.
The next weekend I found myself in San Sebastian, Spain, where world renowned beaches thrive. My friend and I found an Australian company who ran a surf camp, so we hit the waves and took a surfing lesson one day. It is much harder of a sport than it looks like, but the ocean and beaches were well worth the sore arms. I also visited Lisbon, Portugal, which is one of my favorite destinations. The tiles were beautiful and plentiful, the history was rich, and the food was spectacular.
The city with the most impressive art for me was Barcelona. Gaudi was the famous architect who built the Sagrada Familia, which is synonymous with Barcelona, along with Park Guell. I also visited the Picasso museum, where I fell in love. Previously in my mind, I figured anyone could draw wacky shapes and color them in, but when I visited the museum I saw how talented Picasso was at age 14 before he developed his style. Being an art minor, seeing all of these very famous Spanish artists that I studied was mind-blowing. In Madrid I went to the Prado Museum and the Reina Sofia, where I saw artists like Velasquez, Goya, and Dali. Travel ling helped shape my experience in a unique way.
In Salamanca there is a lot to do. Going to a Spanish public pool was a different experience than a public pool in the US. They have grass and trees around the pool, no chairs, and a bar that has oddly flavored Cheetos. Also, the ice cream surrounding the Plaza Mayor is artisan and delicious. Walking around the city, you are surrounded by buildings that are older than our country.
Even though I did many cool activities, I decided that my favorite one of all was eating lunch and dinner with my host mom. Her name is Paz, and she is my version of an angel. She is so patient when it comes to foreigners trying to talk with her; she has 22 years of host-mom experience under her very fashionable belt. I enjoyed joking with her, inviting her to go shopping with me, and just being around her and her dog Klipper.
I learned more than just the Spanish language while I was abroad. To travel correctly, you have to eat the native food, and talk with the native people. In San Sebastian I ate beef cheek. In Lisbon I had nata and bacalau. In Salamanca I ate chorizo and jamón iberico. These places are known for these foods for a reason, sampling them is necessary.
I also realized that I don’t have to take pictures of everything. Some things are just seen and felt with the heart, and no matter what angle you use, there is no way you can describe it. Being without a phone or technology was a blessing. Since I wasn’t looking at my phone, I was looking up at the ceilings of delicately designed cathedrals. I wasn’t scrolling through Twitter, instead I was paddle boating on Rio Tormes enjoying the skyline. The biggest take away of Spanish culture for me was the idea that I need to simply enjoy things for myself. When I think back to my time in Salamanca, I get a sense of longing to return, which is a signifier of a fantastic time abroad.