As I begin my fifth week here at ESADE, I am excited to start my non-intensive class schedule that will my permanent schedule for the remainder of my study abroad experience. During the intensive period, I was always on my toes since those classes met every day for 3-4 hours per day for two weeks. Now, these classes will only meet once a week, so I will have ample time to begin travelling the rest of Spain and Europe!
I feel like I have adjusted nicely to Spanish culture. I am enjoying cooking at the “proper” dinner hour and spending time with my roommates exploring Barcelona and making new friends! Also, I have established a routine to commute to and from ESADE that takes exactly 55 minutes if everything goes to plan. This commute was originally something I dreaded every day, but I realize now that it is not too bad since I know what to expect.
I have observed that Spaniards tend to be more laid back in their ways of doing things, and I realize that it is not appropriate for me to push them quite so much out of their comfort zone. For example, in one of my group projects, I worked with two students from San Cugat (neighborhood in which ESADE is located) who were very relaxed and even-keeled as we approached our deadline for our final project. While McIntire has prepared me well for working in diverse groups, I was originally taken aback from my perception of their internal drive to get their work done. In fact, I thought maybe I was too pushy for asking them to get their work done earlier even though we had some wiggle room with our deadline. Nevertheless, the two students were very hard workers and I was happy with our final project for our class. I let them work at their own pace and backed off a bit, and the students responded well to this! Overall, this experience taught me that although students of different cultures may manage their time differently and initially have an attitude that they do not care, this is actually not the case and I have to realize that everyone does great work in their own way.
Another example of a cultural difference was when I went to Málaga with a group of 12 friends and the experiences we had trying to pay when we all would go out to dinner. I have learned that it is very uncommon for Spaniards to split the check into individual portions when it is time to pay. This is frown up which was very surprising to me to find out. As a result, it made the process of paying for meals more difficult than it needed to be. When we would pay, everyone had their own specific method of payment (credit/debit cards, cash, etc) and thus interacted individually with the waiter who seemed to be annoyed by all of these transactions. It seemed to make sense to us that each person would conduct their own separate transaction to pay for their meal instead of one person paying and then going through the complicated process of reimbursing that person. Nevertheless, I apologized to the waiter for creating additional hassle for him/her and that we greatly appreciated their service and understanding. I still am not quite sure why it is not more accepted to do this in Spain, yet I still attempt to split the check as often as I can merely for convenience and peace of mind.
I have had lots of opportunities to practice my Spanish which my mother was very happy to hear! I always attempt to start every conversation in Spanish as a sign of respect and then wait for the other person to ask if I speak English if they feel like I am not adequately explaining myself in Spanish. I am able to practice my Spanish wherever I go, including the grocery store, restaurants and even sometimes with families on the street who are lost and in need of direction! One specific situation was when I went on a walking tour of Barcelona and the tour guide presented information about the city in Spanish. I was able to comprehend pretty seamlessly what the tour guide was saying, and I even asked him some questions afterwards and carried a conversation for roughly 10 minutes. I am glad that I went on this tour in Spanish because it seemed like a more authentic presentation of the city which I appreciated.
I have really enjoyed practicing my Spanish in Barcelona, but I wish I could practice more with the native ESADE students since they are closer to my age and engage in similar ways of living. I am struggling to meet up with them outside of the classroom, so it might be worth trying to reach out besides for academic reasons and also initiating the conversation in Spanish. ¡Hasta pronto!