Michelle Aldridge - Segovia, Spain
As I stepped off the plane, I could feel anxiety rising up within me. What would the city be like? Would my host parents like me? Did I know enough Spanish to get by? All of these thoughts rushed through my head. As my name was called from the list, I looked around searching for who my host parents would be. Then I saw a lady with bright red hair, complete with a bleach blonde streak in the front, come running towards me. She introduced herself as Hortensia, kissed me on both cheeks, a custom in Spain that I was not prepared for, and whisked me and my roommate away while simultaneously speaking Spanish at a mile per minute. From that moment on, I knew that my study abroad experience in Segovia was going to be one unforgettable adventure.
Hortensia and Daniel.
After arriving at my new home away from home with Hortensia, I soon met her husband, Daniel. To be honest, I was nervous about staying with a family other than my own, but I had heard from other students that this would be my favorite part of my study abroad experience, which it was! Hortensia and Daniel instantly became my ‘madre’ and ‘padre’ abroad. They helped both my new roommate Emily and I to learn a lot about Spanish culture and language. My madre always cooked us the best traditional Spanish dishes for dinner; I’m convinced that she’s the best cook in Spain! We ate everything from ‘paella’ to ‘flan’ to my favorite: ‘chocolate con churros.’ Hortensia always let us help cook, it was like taking a cooking class in Spanish! We always ate dinner together as a family and talked about everything. It was a great way to practice Spanish and get to know Hortensia and Daniel. We would play cards, watch the Simpsons in Spanish (it is very popular there), dance, and laugh for hours. They encompass everything about the spirit of Spain and my experience would not have been the same without them.
Dinner at 10:00?
My life in Spain was completely different from my life back home in Michigan and I had many adjustments to make. In Spain, people are more conservative with their energy and water, which meant always turning off the lights and taking very short, cold showers. But the biggest difference that I had to get used to was the sleeping and eating schedule. I didn't realize that it was so different from the United States. At 2 o’clock in the afternoon literally everything in the city closed down for ‘siesta’, or short naps taken after lunch. Siestas are a tradition in most countries where the weather is extremely hot, and believe me, Spain during the summer was scorching. So in order to experience this aspect of the culture we would go home, eat lunch, and then sleep until 5 or 6 o'clock. The siestas were great because we were able to avoid the hot time of the day by taking a nap, and who doesn't love taking naps!
However, I think that the most difficult part for me was adjusting to the post-siesta schedule because we wouldn't eat dinner until 10 o'clock at night! That definitely took some getting used to, especially for my stomach. After dinner everyone in the city, including small children, would stay out until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. This part of the day is cooler and everyone is able to enjoy spending time together. During the festivals of San Juan and San Pedro live concerts in the center of town at 2 o’clock in the morning were the norm and all of the town would get together and dance in the streets. I have never experienced anything like that in my life back home and I felt a wonderful feeling of togetherness with the town.
To the Prado!
I was initially really nervous about taking classes in Spain, but I ended up loving all of my classes. I have always loved the Spanish language, but I have also had a difficult time learning it. We were not allowed to speak English while we were in the school building, which was a challenge, but I am so thankful for that because it really forced me to use my Spanish and since everyone else was trying to learn Spanish, too, it made me less self-conscious about making mistakes. I absolutely loved my professors. They would take us on excursions throughout the city and it really helped me connect with the material that we were studying in class. Our art teacher, Elena, even took us to visit the Prado art museum in Madrid where we were able to see many of the Spanish paintings that we had been learning about in our art class. It was incredible!
I will always cherish my memories from Spain. I try to take the lessons that I have learned from my time in Segovia and integrate them into my life back at home. There were so many cultural differences and I have so many wonderful memories from Segovia, but it would take me days to write about everything. It is something that you need to experience for yourself. : )