When I think of the majority of college students and their lifestyles, messy and unorganized immediately come to mind first. For most, a profound transition from our parents looking after us for the past eighteen years to going out on our own for the first time exists. Many students find that all they have now is a cell phone with their parents’ number on speed dial. We don’t have anyone to tell us to turn off our lights, put the ketchup back in the refrigerator or fold our laundry. We find that we have to accept the inevitable truth that we must grow up. I can’t deny that since I am now a junior in college, I have enjoyed not having my parents breathe down my neck about these little things and growing up has been an experience I have truly embraced. On my own, I can let my laundry pile up for a week, leave on all my lights (not that I do) and eat at the most absurd hours of the night. However, I am in Spain now, and I live under the roof of a temporary mother and temporary sister, and it’s easy to say that I have regressed back to the time when my parents were around me almost every day of my life.
Think of all the things that you do that annoy your parents at home, and immediately engrave them into your mind before you study abroad in Spain, or any other country, as a guideline of what you should and should not do in your new home . Although I have been extremely lucky that I have neither argued with, nor angered my Spanish mama since I arrived in Spain, I still have a few tips on what you should and should not do in your home away from home.
The Spanish do not believe in leaving any light on in their house, unless they are in that room at that exact moment. I have adapted to running downstairs to get a glass of water at night and double checking to make sure that I did not leave on the light when I left. They are truly a “go green” culture and I think this is going to benefit me immensely when I move into my own house next year.
The Spanish also do not believe in handshakes. In fact, they may just laugh in your face if you try and give them one. They prefer a kiss on the cheek and a smile. I know it may seem strange at first, but it is much warmer and if you’re like myself, it will make you feel extremely welcomed right from the start.
Do not, and I repeat, do not think it is a custom to have guests in your house at any time. The Spanish do not have friends over to hang out or watch movies and they do not invite their friends over to get ready for a night out on the town. In fact, this may actually be the one thing I cannot get accustomed to here. I enjoy having my friends over daily in the United States and we always enjoy our Sunday movies together, but this is just not a custom for most individuals in Spain. I have not witnessed one of my eleven-year-old sister’s friends in our house since I have arrived, and when I asked for a visitor to stop by, this seemed to be the most absurd question of all time.
Additionally, there are a few things that I would recommend always doing if one ever decides to study in Spain. First, make yourself a part of the family from the get go. Do not hide out in your room with your headphones on. If you engage in conversation with your family members, watch what they watch on television or even play a board game with them, you will find that they truly enjoy your efforts. I go to mass every Sunday with my family and then the three of us sit on the couch and watch a movie together while eating some “bocados,” or snacks. Secondly, always allow your family to be aware of your plans. If you do not plan on returning for dinner, let them know, and they will either leave you a plate or know that they do not need to feed you for that night. Lastly, do not be afraid to let your family know when you are feeling down. Just the other day, I was feeling the most homesick I have felt since being here and I had mentioned it to my mama that I missed my family. In order to relieve my homesickness, she made me a pasta dinner because she remembered that in the United States, my family and I always eat this together every Sunday.
Although I wish I could tell you all the things that you should and should not do, I can’t, because this will without a doubt be your own experience. So make sure when you are in your new Spanish home that you take with you all the manners and respect your own parents have instilled in you, and expand your horizons by adapting to the changes. At first it will seem hard, and you will be homesick at times, but just remind yourself that we are all strangers until we meet, and it’s not the routine of our everyday lives that helps us grow as individuals, but the difficulties and changes that shape us.