Differences in lifestyle while abroad

By Kayla O.

March 8, 2020

Throughout this second month of study abroad, I have traveled to Montserrat, Girona, Sitges and Dublin. During this second month, I wanted to make more of an effort to get to know more about the country that I am living in, rather than visiting a ton of different countries for only a couple of days. I feel like this past month I have really gotten a firm grasp on Barcelona, and I am continuing to learn more about Spanish culture. Life here for me is very different than my life in the U.S. I never really believed when people would say, “life is slower in Europe,” but after living in Spain for two months, I’m beginning to find truth in this statement. My favorite example of how life is considered slower in Europe is that when you’re out at a restaurant, the waiter/waitress does not bring you the check unless you ask for it. At first, I found this a little bothersome. In the U.S., the second people finish their meal the check is slapped on the table, and we consider this normal. In Spain, that does not happen. To me, meals in Europe are viewed as a cultural event. Meals in Europe can last for hours, while in the U.S., if a meal lasts hardly over an hour, the waiter/waitress is getting anxious that you’re taking too long. I’ve grown to really enjoy having to ask for the check because it allows me to develop deeper conversation with the people around me.

Another way in which my life is different in Spain compared to the U.S. is that I use public transportation daily in Spain. This is something that I’ve also learned to really enjoy. Nowhere is far in Barcelona; it is a very walkable city. But, the public transportation system here is so advanced that you can get from one end of the city to the other in 20-30 minutes. An additional way my life is different in Spain compared to the U.S. is that in Spain, I speak Spanish most of the time, and in the U.S., I speak English most of the time. I’ve found people to be very patient with me in Spain. I’ve taken four years of Spanish in high school, and a semester in college, so I know more than the basics of Spanish, but I am nowhere near fluent. I try my best to speak Spanish as much as possible. When I order a coffee, I order in Spanish. When I’m at a restaurant, I order in Spanish. When I ask for directions on the street, I ask in Spanish. When I’m chatting with my host mom, we’re speaking in Spanish. The only time I’m speaking English is when I’m chatting with the students on my program or when I’m asking questions in class. I love speaking a language that is not my native language. It may not be perfect, but I’ve been learning a lot and trying to increase my vocabulary and fluency.

I can’t believe I’m already writing my second blog post. The first week of March is already over, and my program ends the last week of April. I’m practically halfway through my program, and it’s astonishing how quickly time passes here. This next month I have a lot of family visiting, and I am looking forward to taking them around the city that I have grown to love so much. I have a lot to do in a short period of time, but I am definitely up for the challenge.

Learn more about this blogger’s study abroad program: IES Abroad: Liberal Arts and Business in Barcelona