Culture Shock in the Best Way Possible in Spain

Culture Shock in the Best Way Possible in Spain

One of the most shocking and mind-boggling effects of studying abroad in Spain for me is how I feel as though I have only been here a week because everything continues to be so new and exciting. However, at the same time, I feel as though I have known these people all of my life because I am so comfortable and adapted to my life in Villanueva. Actually, I have only been here 3 months! The time really does fly by when you keep busy and have fun!

School has definitely gotten better as I can now understand the majority of the classes I am taking. However, the classes are very academically challenging even for the students that speak Spanish, so I am giving it my best shot. The other week was “Semana Cultural.” We had many classes to learn about cultures all over the world. In fact, I taught an American theater class to 12 and 13 year old students at my school! My English teacher knew that my job over the summer was as a theater camp counselor for children, so she offered me this amazing opportunity. It was such a success that I ended up teaching the class to all bilingual sections in the school. I also received the amazing news that I will be graduating here as well! I take classes in the first and second years of bachillerato so the directors asked if I would like to participate in the graduation ceremony as I won’t be coming back the following year. It is such an honor!

The following week was “Semana Santa,” which in the United States we consider Spring Break! On the first Saturday of break, I was a model in our city’s local fashion show. The experience was incredible and I got to meet so many amazing people. It was my first time ever doing something like that, and I would definitely do it again. Somehow, I didn’t trip and fall so I consider that a success! The next day, my family and I went to Granada, a beautiful city in south eastern Spain. There, I watched my first ever procession.

The processions of Semana Santa is a very important part of the Spanish culture, even though everyone does not participate. The people that belong to the church dress in long, full-body robes and wear masks with pointy tops and holes for the eyes. These people carry large crosses or long, lit candles as they march through the streets to the beat of the drums from the band. Other people, normally the men, carry huge, heavy statues that depict the events of the processions through the streets. Sometimes, the people can walk through town for twelve hours straight! To be honest, at first I was a little scared as I saw the costumes and heard the beating of the drums. There really is no way to describe it. I have never been so speechless in my life. Through this public display of commitment, you can see the unity and beauty of this culture. Many people (like me) may consider these events difficult or unbearable, but when you ask the participants they are always happy to do it and enjoy every minute of it!

During the days of Semana Santa, my family and I visited many places and enjoyed the city. We went hiking on mountains that were directly across from the Sierra Nevada mountains, which obviously was a great view! My favorite place was La Alhambra; I am now convinced that Spain is the most beautiful place in the world! But everyone’s favorite part of Semana Santa is the final Saturday night, known to the people as “the night without sleep.” The entire country goes out around midnight and doesn’t get home until around 10 the next morning (which is Easter!) The reason for this is to watch the “carrerita” which is the final celebration of the processions when the statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary run together and start to dance as confetti falls and the people cheer. It’s incredible. Check out this video to get an idea of the experience. After the night of celebration, on Easter Sunday everyone sleeps the day away and the streets are cleared.

The other day I Skyped some of my friends back home with some friends of mine here. I love the friends I have in both places so much that I needed them to meet! It was a really cool experience to translate for both groups. It showed me how far I have come and how much my Spanish has progressed. One of my Spanish friends tried to say that the American style of clothes looks like those of rappers… The only problem was that he ended up saying “rapers.” Big difference! We all had a good laugh after I explained the difference in the two similar sounding words! The same situation has happened to me a million times and you really learn how to laugh at yourself … a lot!

It is hard to be away from home, but I have not yet felt any strong homesickness. I think the reason for my lack of desire to return is because I constantly remind myself of my short time remaining here in Spain. Actually, when I think about leaving I feel homesickness for here. Every second I spend here I fall more and more in love with this place! I already consider Villanueva de la Serena my second city. My second home. And part of my heart will always be here.

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