Going into study abroad, I knew I’d face challenges, especially in a country where they speak a different language, but I guess I just hadn’t anticipated there to be so many. Even simple tasks here sometimes seem difficult, even when others claim them to be so easy.
For example, everyone always talks about how easy it is to get SIM cards in Europe, yet, I had immense amounts of trouble. I tried to buy an Orange SIM card twice, and both times they couldn’t activate it and didn’t know why. Their best advice was to just come back tomorrow… So that’s when I decided to try Vodafone, yet Vodafone still didn’t work, so finally I just decided to go with the overpriced SIM cards that my program has a deal with just because of convenience and their customer service. When I had issues with Vodafone, I couldn’t even contact their customer service, and when I went in person, they simply told me that my phone was to blame. Alów on the other hand was easily reachable by email and very helpful – worth the price tag just because of the customer service.
And then of course the language barrier just makes everything worse. I feel terrible because we’ve had some misunderstandings with our host mom, and I don’t want to break any rules or make her upset. Because of this, sometimes I wish we just lived in an apartment with other students instead – it definitely is harder going back to living with a family, although our señora is pretty chill about most things. However, I know that this homestay will be a better learning experience than if we were in an apartment. I just wish we could understand her (She’s one of the most difficult to understand Spaniards I’ve conversed with.) and converse with her better. For instance, I feel so horrible because neither my roommate Hannah nor I realized that we couldn’t shower past midnight, which we both ended up doing.
The language barrier just gets frustrating after a while. It’s odd too because with some people, I can understand everything they say, but with others, I don’t even understand basic words from Spanish I. It’s just frustrating only understanding about half of the information given. At least my señora has done this for 20 years, so I think she understands. She’s a very sweet woman.
Aside from the Spanish, I feel like some things in Spain are just inherently challenging because they aren’t run very well. Sometimes I feel like going out to eat is almost a pain because anytime you need something from the waiter, you have to flag them down while they’re managing so many other tables. They never split checks here either, which makes going out with friends more difficult. And as far as academics go, it doesn’t make sense either. Classes are on random day combinations like Monday and Friday, Monday and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, you name it, and sometimes at different times too, which made scheduling much harder than scheduling at UNC (believe it or not).
I guess I’m just starting to get out of the “honeymoon phase” of study abroad, especially after having one of my worst days yet (bought the wrong plane tickets, didn’t lock up a Sevici bike properly, etc…). Many things are just more difficult here even if I was fluent in Spanish, and there are definitely things I miss from home too, namely bathrooms. I’ve gotten to the point now where I get excited to find toilet paper and soap in a bathroom. Most here don’t have one or the other, or even both, even in places like restaurants (health inspection anyone??).
Overall, Sevilla is a charming city, and I’m glad to be here for an extended period of time. I wanted to study abroad not only to improve my Spanish and to travel but to also grow as a person. So I hope that I learn from these experiences and am able to make good out of all the struggles that I’ve already had. I mean even if I get scammed every once in a while or accidentally buy the wrong plane tickets and lose 100 euros, at least I have this fantastic opportunity to live in and to learn from Spanish culture as well as to travel all over Europe.
Like our program director told us on one of our first days, we just have to anticipate that these challenges and misunderstandings will arise and we must take them with a grain of salt and a smile.