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Better Than My Dreams: Study Abroad in Spain

It’s official—I’ve been bitten by the travel bug and I don’t care who knows it.
Within the past month, I’ve visited three different cities in Spain and taken a weekend trip to Morocco, Africa. I feel like I’m dreaming.

I’m one of those people who is prone to lying in bed unable to “turn their brain off,” but when I first arrived in Spain I slept all the time, maybe too much. But I’ve fallen in love; with this country, with traveling, with the excitement—with my life. Maybe it’s the kid in me, but a wise man once said, “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” So thank you, Dr. Seuss, for perfectly explaining why I need to invest in some sleeping pills.

There’s

just something about living in a way that teaches you about another culture with every step you take—there’s never a dull moment. Speaking in Spanish has been put on the back burner when compared to all of the other things I’ve experienced. From riding camels in Africa to sharing a 14-bed room hostel with strangers, my study abroad experience is much more than just school work. While in Morocco, I had the opportunity to wonder through the downtown street-markets of a small and relatively poor area. For the first time, I witnessed women dressed in their cultural garb, animals being turned into meat on the street right in front of me, while the Arabic language filled the air. This was a culture not only extremely different from my own, but also from Spain; one I had only read about in books or in the news.  Visiting these places first-hand has made all difference, and though amazing, in the end, has made me appreciate my own country even more.

For me, that is one of the best parts I’ve found about study abroad. Learning about other cultures is pertinent, understanding them is wonderful, but loving them is voluntary. Before I left for abroad I didn’t know what to expect. What I’ve found, is that Madrid is much more westernized than I had expected (yes, asking a question in Spanish and getting a response in English is slightly depressing), Seville and southern Spain can be thanked for the Spanish “siesta” way of life, and that many Moroccans—though living in poor conditions—know more languages than the average American. After experiencing the Super Bowl without access to the commercials or English commentary, as well as watching THON through a live feed, I have missed being in the U.S. However, I can’t deny the thrill of visiting the soccer stadium of Real Madrid, viewing the original works of Salvador Dali, and eating Cous Cous galore in Africa. For the record, I’ve decided the name is repeated because it’s just that good.

At
this point, the only thing I’m not impressed with is the lack of Spanish I’ve learned thus far. Everyone learns at different speeds, but traveling has actually made this more difficult considering I’m constantly with other Americans. However, my new found optimism has lifted my spirits from ‘severely frustrated’ to ‘si se puede, si se puede!,’ a phrase relatively known as a “yes you can,” little-train-that-could-style.

My colloquial language class can also be quite funny, and though I have a bit more homework than I had imagined, I am thankful for it. I’m pretty positive that the only reason my father wanted me to study abroad is so that I can come home and be able to speak to his best friend in Spanish, and all I can say is that I cannot wait to do just that (good thing my father won’t be able to understand that I’m making fun of him).

Next step, planning for spring break—you know, just the normal three-week length of time every student gets off from school. Hasta luego!

Rachel also has a study abroad blog: http://rachellytle.blogspot.com/

Born and raised by two Nittany Lions, Rachel continued the tradition by attending Penn State University in the fall of 2009. Currently a senior journalism major, Rachel also spends her time minoring in both psychology and Spanish. During her sophomore year she wrote for the Greek newspaper at Penn State as a member of Alpha Xi Delta, followed by joining the Her Campus team as a writer and the Public Relations/Social Media Manager in the fall of her junior year. In search of mastering the Spanish language, Rachel indulged herself in the country of Spain for five months while she studied abroad in the city of Alicante during the spring of 2012. In order to keep her English up to par, Rachel blogged about her experiences for both her personal account and Her Campus at Penn State. With a love for shoes, smiles, and a good bowl of mac and cheese, this social media fiend never leaves her twitter by its lonesome. Follow Rachel @hayhayitsrayray as she pursues her dream as an aspiring magazine editor and world traveler.
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