A major aspect of Spanish culture that I have yet to really see (unfortunately) in that of America is the concept of acknowledging the presence of others. This goes beyond just saying “hola” when getting on the elevator or exiting a café with a friendly “hasta luego!” but extends to long sobremesas with close family and friends and weekends dedicated to spending hours over meals free of cell phones and other distractions. Over the last two and a half months I have definitely become a lot more aware of my surroundings, but also of the people who shape my days and how I can maintain a balance between my relationships here and those ties I hold onto tightly (despite the awkward time difference) with Skidmore friends and the real homies as well.
Although, it’s not as easy as it may seem to keep in touch with people on the other side of the pond. More thankful for the invention of facetime now more than ever, there’s something more special and intimate about seeing your mom’s face light up as the connection fades in and becomes clear. Or hearing the excitement in your friends’ voices as they fill you in on stuff you’re missing on campus, almost always ending it by expressing their jealousy in response to my Snapchat stories or Instagram photos. While it’s super tempting to post everything you’re doing because, of course, it’s worth showing off from time to time, I’ve found comfort in relying less on my phone and on social media while being here.
Spanish people rarely ever board the metro or train in groups and immediately drop conversation and take to their phones. They laugh and mess around with each other for hours over meals, even after their glasses have gone dry and their plates empty, forgotten by the waiter altogether as usual. In an attempt to assimilate to the culture, my abroad friends and I have certainly developed a unique, special relationship compared to other friendships I struggle to maintain day to day. Maybe it’s that, when you’re always traveling in relatively big groups, it takes even more effort to get everyone to agree on a location, and then actually mobilizing is always the ultimate challenge. We don’t typically hang out at each other’s homes like we do in the United States, so for me it can be upwards of a 45 minute trip using a combination of walking, metro, and bus, and if it’s worth it to travel all this way as opposed to watching Netflix in bed, you know those people are worth it.
I’ve shared the best times and become close to so many people who I know I would have never had the chance to meet and get to know, if not for the Tufts-Skidmore program, my host family or my internship at CityLife. Every day I encounter a variety of people and often switch back and forth from Spanish to English, meanwhile forgetting essential phrases and expressions in either language from time to time. I’ve taken advantage of the small moments I have to myself, trying to fit in enough time for everyone. Finding a balance and effectively fitting in time for everyone has made me realize who I care about most, and I have realized that it’s okay to check in every week or two; it’s not the end of the world and you can always make up for lost time. What makes me sad but motivates me to take full advantage of the ticking timebomb of study abroad is to make every effort to get to know the Tufts kids who I know I won’t really see next semester, and of course the other Erasmus students and awesome Spanish people that I’ve grown close with here. Keeping in mind, of course, that I probably won’t fully realize what I’ve got now until it’s gone – and the people who shape my daily schedules here will, in just one short month, trade places with those I text, Snapchat, and Facetime on the other side of the ocean.