Embracing Spain

*This is the third guest blog post of the Longhorn Abroad series. Finance senior Dima Horda studied abroad in Madrid, Spain.

When I arrived in Madrid in early January, I had no idea what to expect. You cannot take any class in college that can fully prepared you to spend five months in another country.

At first, my main goal was to be just like a local. I think a lot of study abroad students expect to have the same comforts afforded to them in their new country. That is simply not realistic. You have to adapt to a new standard of living and that means making some sacrifices whether it be housing, cuisine, etc. Studying abroad taught me to adapt my surroundings and make the best out of every situation.

Photo courtesy of Dima Horda

Photo courtesy of Dima Horda

The first thing that I noticed about Spaniards is they know how to enjoy life. During the afternoon, you can find “Hole-in-the-Wall” cafes full of “Madrileños” enjoying some beer and tapas. Speaking of food, one of the things that I found most challenging during my time abroad was how late Spaniards eat all of their meals.

Lunch, the biggest meal of the day, is usually eaten at 2 p.m. or later, and dinner (usually a lighter portion) around 10 p.m. Coming from Texas, where the portions are larger and meal times earlier, made adjusting harder than I expected.

Aerial view of Parc Guell in Barcelona. Photo by Dima Horda.

Aerial view of Parc Guell in Barcelona. Photo by Dima Horda.

I came to Madrid with a long history of studying Spanish throughout school. I thought that the language wouldn’t be too big of an issue and that I would only have to learn some basic slang. I was so wrong.

Upon having dinner the first night with my host family, I literally thought they were speaking another language. I could barely pick up any of the vocabulary and the speed at which they were speaking was astonishing. I often tell my friends that there is no period or comma when Spaniards speak. Although my first language experience was a bit traumatizing, my ability to decipher the words improved as I spent more time around my new family.

I could not adequately describe my study abroad experience without talking about soccer or fútbol, as it is called in most countries outside of the U.S. To put it in perspective for Americans, fútbol is like all of our sports rolled into one in terms of the fans and their love for the game. I had a chance to attend three matches during my semester abroad and was mesmerized by the atmosphere. For Spaniards, fútbol is not simply a game, but an expression of the passion they have for life.

Photo courtesy of Dima Horda

Photo courtesy of Dima Horda

The most enjoyable part of my experience was meeting other international students. As the semester progressed, I had the opportunity to travel with many of them throughout Spain, visiting cities such as Barcelona, Seville, Valencia, and many more. I learned that the people you meet can make or break your study abroad experience. The people I spent my time with were just as excited to explore Madrid and learn about the Spanish culture as I was.

It’s funny to think that I didn’t know a single soul coming to Madrid, but ended up making a group of lifelong friends.

Story and photos by Dima Horda

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