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4 Challenges of Living in Spain

Obviously studying abroad comes with many adjustments including getting used to the lifestyle of your host country and its culture. I was quick to learn that Spaniards live very differently than Americans. They follow a more laid back lifestyle and enjoy their life to the fullest. Compared to the US, the stress level is almost non-existent to Spaniards. There is always a way around something, and a reason to smile. There are few adjustments that stuck out to me in the last month and a half, that I thought would be useful information for any of you collegiettes hoping to study in Spain one day.

Telephone adjustment

Once you land in your new destination for your time abroad, be prepared to give up all that web browsing you were so used to doing to kill time. There is no such thing as “unlimited data” in Spain. You will be lucky if you find a data plan with more than 6 GB per month. With that being said, take advantage of the WIFI everywhere you go. It’s important to conserve those gigs for those times you get lost on your way home from a party, or in cases of emergencies. It was an adjustment to get used to not using my phone all the time, but it was absolutely manageable.

Siesta time

One thing I learned very quickly during my first couple of months in Spain is that Spaniards LOVE their siesta time. From the hours of 2-5 PM most stores, restaurants, pharmacies, and convenience stores close down for their siesta time. So basically if you need anything from a store make sure you go early, or be prepared to wait till the evening. Spaniards love their night life, so they rest during the afternoon so they can recharge for whatever they have planned for the night.

Public transportation everywhere

This adjustment is something you have to get used to all throughout Europe. Since we have to sign a waiver that we cannot operate motorized vehicles during our time abroad, our cheapest and most reliable form of transportation is public transportation.  At first it’s a bit confusing considering all the stops and signage are in another language. However, once you get the hang of it, you realize how much better it is riding the metro everywhere instead of sitting in traffic.

Related: 3 Tips for Studying Abroad

Language barrier

If you are going to your host country without too much prior knowledge of the language, be prepared to face some obstacles. Most importantly, do not expect everyone to speak English. While it is a universal language, many people are too shy to converse with you in English. There is always a way, just be patient and remember you are in a new environment. There will always be someone that is willing to help!  

Being in Spain is teaching me a lot not only about the new culture but also about the culture back home. While there are things both cultures have in common they also differ tremendously. Remember that the whole point of studying abroad is to enjoy yourself, and go with whatever is thrown your way. It’s all a learning experience!

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Ariana Tayebi

George Mason University

George Mason University '18
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