Sometimes Expect the Unexpected

3 Nov

Amiguitos!  I am now finished with my midterms week here, which went very well (as expected).  However, as I’ve had almost zero homework this entire semester, suddenly in each class I will be writing papers for the rest of this month—fun, no?  Aside from the homework, in the past two weeks I came across this sudden realization of how my study abroad experience was going, and it really hit me hard.

Firstly, as I wrote about in one of my earlier blogs, I had a very brief—yet intense—wave of culture shock and homesickness a few days after I arrived in Spain.  However, I was aware this could—and probably would—happen, so I was back to new after just about a day.  The thing I didn’t realize was that it could happen again, out of nowhere, right smack in the middle of the semester.   I’m not really sure what happened, but after my fall vacation, upon my return to Alicante I sort of slid into this slum.  The “vacation” feeling of my study abroad experience had completely ended—which is to be expected.  I suddenly started feeling that I had just about done and seen everything in my host city, and I didn’t like how monotonous things were beginning to feel.  I felt stir crazy, extremely sad, and was craving for change . . . but what?

This feeling of homesickness and boredom also came with a slight resentment for my host country.  I was tired of always hearing Spanish, tired of the way of life here, and right out sick of the way I stick out like a sore thumb simply by my walking pace (no, really, it’s true—everyone here walks incredibly slow).  Also, I finally made the realization that I was truly a foreigner, and not everyone is as welcoming as you would think.  I won’t go into detail as it’s now done and over with, but I had a very emotional encounter with one of those not-so-kind people at some point during these strange two weeks.   This, of course, enhanced that feeling of resentment.  I just felt like I was in the very weird place—being in the middle felt like the worst.  I was halfway done, yet I somehow felt that home was so incredibly far away.  All I wanted to just to leave. Now.

Of course, I knew something had to change.  I wasn’t about to let what’s supposed to be one of the best experiences of my life be ruined by some strange slum I had suddenly fell in.  I actually contacted someone who had done my program last year to discuss my concerns—which helped immensely!  I came to the realization that I am normally extremely busy at Purdue, and as I have already done so much in my host city, perhaps I now needed a slight change of scenery.  Therefore, I decided to take a big step and head over to the volunteer’s office.   I haven’t exactly found something yet, but it gives me an option if I need somewhere to invest my time.

However, as strange as it may sound, I think what truly pulled me out of this weird state was my new Spanish amigas!  Right before vacation, our program had set up an “Intercambio”, which was where we had the chance to meet Spanish students from the University.  Well, shortly after I returned from my fall vacation, one of the girls got a hold of me, and I was also able to meet some of her friends as well.  Long story short, I had suddenly found that breath of fresh air I needed.  As I do love my American friends here dearly, it’s just like a totally different world when you get the chance to interact—and make legitimate friends with—other Spanish locals.  It’s not even about further improving my Spanish, which is a wonderful perk, but it’s more about overcoming that obstacle or fear if you will of breaking down that language and culture barrier.  Before arriving in Spain, my Spanish conversational skills sucked—and that’s putting it lightly.  One of my largest fears was that I would not be able to make Spanish friends due to this.  It wasn’t even that I was afraid of not finding the words to say, I was more afraid of not being able to convey my personality in a foreign language.  However, I now have this immense feeling of accomplishment that I’ve overcome that fear—con éxito 🙂

I am now back to fully enjoying my experience, and I feel an extreme sense of satisfaction spending more of my spare time with my Spanish friends.  I am no longer feeling resentment for my second home here in Spain, and I am back to truly loving hearing and speaking this language.  I feel that this was definitely a huge turning point, and my experience probably would have turned out completely different without them—actually, I am sure of it!   Now, after the whirlwind of emotions, I can’t believe November has crept up on me.  Although I am not “homesick” anymore, I do still miss people at home, and trust me, I can’t wait to see everyone!  Yet, I feel that I am somehow at the peak of my experience, and I don’t want it to slip away too quickly.  I only have 7 weeks left—SEVEN—and I started with 17.  I always thought a semester abroad seemed so long.  However, now that I’m actually doing it, I realize that I’ll be returning back to reality before I know it.

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One Response to “Sometimes Expect the Unexpected”

  1. Michael November 11, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    It’s nice to read about how you are reflecting on your experience and really “get” what it’s all about.

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