Note: My name is Scott Himelein and I'm studying in Seville, Spain, until May. I will be attempting to update this blog for RichmondSpiders.com as frequently as possible. Before diving in with this, I wanted to inform my readers that I can never properly show you what studying abroad is like. When I struggled with the idea of going abroad in the fall, I was informed from every which way that it would be: "the ____ four months of your life". I heard the words "Best", "Inspiring", "Independent", and "Influential". I respected my friends' opinions and advice but never quite appreciated or trusted what they were saying. I'm writing this only nine days into my experience and I can already start to see what they meant. My point is that if you're trying to gauge this blog to see if going abroad is right for you, you're reading for the wrong reason. I hope to inform and entertain as much as possible, but in reality, you won't truly know about the world abroad until you experience it for yourself. Enjoy...
Blog Entry #1
I arrived in Seville, Spain, around 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7. I got to the airport, scooped up my bags and found a taxi driver outside. I had already pre-planned what I was going to say to the guy, so I guess you can't really call it my first true Spanish conversation. After the 20-minute ride, I arrived at my house in Gran Plaza and met my family.
One of my roommates from my sophomore year,e, had the same home stay in the fall and had previously informed me of how great they were, so it wasn't like I had to worry about moving in with the guy from the "Lemony Snicket" series. I'm not sure of Mayte and Angel's true age yet, but they seem to be grandparents in the truest form. Since we met, I have learned that they watch game shows a lot, sleep a ton and love to cook. Most importantly, as could be seen within ten minutes of our first encounter, their sweet, almost-celestial demeanor makes it quite easy to feel at home.
Our first Spanish conversation that first day went a lot like a bilingual version of the game Catchphrase or Password. As a journalism major, I feel that I'm able to communicate my intended idea (for the most part) in an easy, almost complacent manner, so it was interesting having to use different avenues of communication than what I'm used to in order to convey even the simplest messages.
Using other avenues will probably end up being a central theme of this blog. There's so much new that sometimes you have to deal with it in ways outside of what you're used to. I heard and continue to hear the cliché terms "culture shock" and "outside the comfort zone" from our international coordinators. As much as I tried to mentally prep myself for the changes I would go through, again, it's not something you particularly understand unless you experience it.
When I first Skyped my parents, I told them my emotional range was so diverse that it felt as if I were a hormonal pregnant woman. Looking back, that seems like a bit of a stretch, but you get my point.
One of the best examples of culture shock other than the obvious language problem is the sense of time here. Schedules don't seem to be as set in stone here from what I can see. People are a little late for things and that's perfectly natural. I haven't seen anyone in a rush to get somewhere. I'm yet to see the impatient driver who weaves in and out of traffic. I was looking to meet up with the other international students a couple nights ago and was a little impatient when the metro wasn't working, and a large group of people had to wait at the station. As I stood there agitated, I realized how calm, cool and collected everyone was around me. In a weird way, it mellowed me out too.
While the more relaxed sense of time has its perks, it has also been frustrating at times. For example, siestas are a daily occurrence in Sevilla. For those who don't know, a siesta is a period of time in the afternoon (if I had to give an exact time, I'd say 2-5 p.m.) when the city shuts down both literally and figuratively. Stores are closed. Schools are closed. A good portion of people sleep.
As cool as that sounds and as much as I've loved being encouraged to take long naps on a daily basis, it can be frustrating at times knowing that you can't get anything done in the afternoon. When we had class for most of the morning and were taking tours or going out at night, this period of time was really the only window I had to go out and buy the things I needed. So when I needed a new charger for my laptop within the first day, it was tough to find time to go out and find a place. In the end, things will get done, but they just may take a little longer than what you're used to. It takes patience at times; a new avenue of thought for me.
As much as I want to continue to write about my experiences here, I promised myself that I would cap these entries at 1,000 words so that I'm not spending too much time on my computer while I'm here. I realize I only talked about my first experience with my family and my blossoming perception of a cultural difference, but those are the thoughts freshest on my mind and I felt the need to write them down. I will have plenty of time to write about the people I meet, the sites I see and the things I learn. They're not going anywhere for a while, and neither am I.