Sophia Roman in Spain
Well, my experience has had its ups and downs. There are so many differences. Learning the language has, and continues to be, a challenge, but I am definitely improving. Also, its hard being so far away from all my friends and my family. My host family is really good. I have my parents, and three sisters, Elisa is 21, Leti is 19, and Maria is 12. We live in this tiny apartment, I have my own room, but it is quite small. We live in the north of Madrid, and really close to a Metro stop. The Metro in Madrid is AMAZING! I love it, the locals don't like it as much as I do, but even they say that it is better than most citys. My school is very different from Catlin. I am taking 9 classes (7 meet each day), I have no free periods, my teachers all love me because I am the sweet American exchange student, we have three major testing weeks in the year and in most classes 60% of your grade depends on how you perform on those tests, there are no extracurriculars or clubs or sports teams, my school building isn't really a building, its like rooms connected and then the hallways have a roof but no walls, so it is cold, but it never really rains, so its not a big deal, my teachers come to my class instead of me going to their room, my class has about 65 people in it. The people are different, but very nice. Spanish don't really do exercise (especially the girls, the guys do, but none of the girls in my class ever exercise), and I am used to always doing a sport during the year, so that has been a complete change. On the weekends though the kids my age do basically the same things that americans do: see a movie, eat dinner together, etc. The only difference is that sometimes they go to discos, but that is not too common, only like once every other month or so. The food in Spain is very strong, especially the winter food. They like their meat. I am more of a fish person so getting used to the strong food has been somewhat of a challenge for me. My family especially loves meat, ham or bacon is put on EVERYTHING, but it does depend on the family because some of my classmates don't like meat too much either so their family usually eats fish. Another cultural difference is never really having any personal space, like even if I am in my room alone, I can hear my mom talking on her telephone, my sister memorizing her homework (when Maria does her homework, she always talks aloud), and someone watching tv. The thing I think I miss most about my life in Portland was the freedom that I was given. Like, when I felt like it I could just go to a coffee place alone and do homework, here no one does that, or I could walk my dog in the neighborhood, here my family doesn't really let me do that. So it has been difficult transitioning into this new style of life, but little by little I am getting settled in and understanding the normal things to do and not to do.
I thought that everyone in Spain would be very fashion forward and dress in all the latest styles, wear bright colors, and always look put together. So I packed to be fashionable: my more fashionable jeans, sweaters instead of sweatshirts, flats and boots instead of converse, and blouses instead of tshirts. However, I wish I had packed differently. At school most people wear jeans, a t-shirt, converse and a sweatshirt (normally a zip-up). The sweatshirts are pretty much exactly like the ones that I didn't pack, same with the tshirts and the converse (I didn't bring converse so the second week I begged my mom to send over a pair). People are really relaxed at school and don't really care what they wear or look like. The only major difference is that girls wear their jeans the same way boys do - loose and sagging low so you can see their underwear. The first time I saw this I was kind of in awe, I had to keep reminding myself not to stare at peoples' crotches. Now I am gettting used to the trend, and might consider buying a pair of boy-jeans.