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Things I Didn’t Appreciate About Study Abroad Until Later

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Hey, waddup. Your little noodle-head is gonna read this and probably learn something - and hopefully smile.

Have you ever thought about how you’re going to have to start a conversation with this adorable castañas-stand (chestnuts) lady on the corner so you can get yourself a midnight snack?

Stay with me here. We changed pace. How ‘bout what you will say if a Speedo enthusiast on the beach asks you where the nearest toboggan store is? Maybe you'll even have to think how to convince this waiter to bring you and your friend, @shley, an extra serving of churros without him realizing that you already had two plates and somehow convince him IN SPANISH.

There are many things that I miss of Spain. The constant ramble and whir of thoughts as you attempt to adjust to strange situations: Don’t walk on the wrong side of the road, don’t kiss the wrong cheek of this precious old lady, and definitely don’t say, “Can I use the restroom?” because they will immediately stare dumbfounded back at you and say “Oh cariño, are you having issues?”

Spaniards cross the roads at random times. Why? Because they can.

They ALWAYS kiss the right cheek first. Probably because the left one forgot to do its hair that morning.

And they NEVER beat around the bush. You want to use the restroom? You have to say, “I use the restroom, please.” You asking, “Can I have a croissant?” Is the social equivalent of you walking up to a 5-star diner, approaching the hostess directly, then saying “croissant my mouth.” And maybe you just didn’t notice, but that is NOT how we do things!

Let’s realize one thing: ~Markets~ The United States needs better markets. No, I’m not talking your itty-bitty, tons of corn and tomatoes (which are a fruit by the way) markets. I’m talking fresh bread, covfefe, maybe a crisp manzana, or a juice, and snag a small snack of two or twelve muffins. Yeah. Sounds nice, right? Maybe get some Paella. Which is practically the sketchy, unbelievable Spanish version of Chinese food but with lots of saffron.

Wait. Ben, are you telling me I can walk down the street, get a fanTABulous muffin and a coffee for about a buck-twenty-five (1 euro) and then walk down to the beach to watch all the Speedo enthusiasts?? Ummm, sure, if you’re into that sorta thing.

We need markets. We do! I took them for granted, their hustle and bustle annoyed me, and now all I want to do is walk down the street for some Paella.

And at these markets, you know what everyone was wearing? SKINNY JEANS. And POOF, the everyday leggings are gone. Eveeerryone is wearing skinny jeans. Leggings are no more -- it’s time to put those baby cows (calves) into some skinny jeans! The different styles of Spain are VASTLY irregular compared to the U.S. I personally miss the Spanish "stripes & jeans" look every time I see a pair of "Crocs & socks" rockin' their way down the hallway, making my eye holes weep.

It was the little challenges. The little pushes out of our comfort zones. The incredible adventures that developed because of it. Plainly, there was just always a tinge of discomfort and anxiety settling in your stomach as each situation was thrown at you and met by person after person speaking in languages you couldn’t always identify. But you kept coming back, because it made you feel alive in the world, and interacted with it as you never have or never knew you could. It makes you stand where your feet are. And when you finally return to your routine in the U.S., you realize that it was all worth it. Then you remember the night you ordered a third plate of churros and you start to smile. :-)


Benjamin Shoemaker is the Fall 2018 Alumni Ambassador in Alicante, Spain, and is currently studying at Iowa State University.
 
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