Football or Fútbol?

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Football or Fútbol?

 

So what’s better– football or fútbol (soccer)? Two weekends ago our Temple group was frantically searching for a restaurant or bar that would air the American Super Bowl on February 5th. Of course, to all of us from Philadelphia, it was pretty important that the Eagles were going to be playing in the game. But when we called places to ask if they were airing the “game,” we realized quickly that we needed to specify. The majority of public places that night were swarming with fans, but they weren’t football fans- they were fútbol fans. Apparently, Spain also had a very important match that night. It was pretty lucky when we finally found a place that was going to be airing the Super Bowl, but it was quite funny, because aside from our group and several other international students, the other fans were soccer fans who had just finished watching their own game.

I grew up absolutely adoring soccer. I love many aspects of the game, but perhaps my favorite thing about the sport is its simplicity. You can play almost anywhere, as long as you have something reminiscent of a ball and some posts or goal markers. It’s no surprise that it’s dubbed the “most popular sport in the world,” because it truly is played almost everywhere. Before coming to Spain I knew that there was a large soccer culture here, and I made it one of my goals to attend a professional soccer game.

Mission=accomplished! In class last Wednesday, our program director Jaime said he had 5 free tickets for the next soccer game in Oviedo. When he asked who wanted them, I think my hand was already in the air.

On Saturday afternoon, I made arrangements to meet 4 friends (the others who were also lucky enough to snag a ticket) at the stadium before the game started. They all live across town from the stadium and wanted to take a bus, but I live quite close in city terms, so I elected for the 20-minute walk. For the first 10 minutes my face was buried in my GPS, but at one moment I lifted my head and found myself surrounded by soccer fans donned in blue and white scarves and jerseys. Clearly I was going the right way– no need to waste data on a map. I put my phone away and followed the crowd. Already, still 10 to 15 minutes from the stadium, there was an excited buzz in the air.

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Real Oviedo vs. Albacete at the Carlos Tartiere Stadium

Although the Real Oviedo soccer team isn’t in the country’s first division, the players are of course still seasoned professionals and there is nothing short of pure spirit amongst the fans. When I arrived and found my way through the crowd to my friends (thank god for the ability to drop pins on iPhones!), we entered the stadium and climbed up to our seats. The stadium isn’t huge in terms of soccer stadiums, but there were more than 17,000 fans there that night.

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Joe and Lucy Enjoying Some Sunflower Seeds

Between cheering along the team as if they were my own, clapping along to the fans’ chants, and eating salted sunflower seeds, I’d say I had a pretty successful first experience at a Spanish soccer game. In the end, neither team scored a goal, but simply soaking in the spirit of the night was exhilarating and more than worth it. I’ve never eaten so many sunflower seeds, or seen so many of their shells on the ground… apparently this is the snack of choice at soccer games here.

Of course it’s not a contest, but if it were… fútbol has my vote all the way. (Sorry, USA!)

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My Oviedo Homestay

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Throughout the Spring semester, all of us Temple students are living with host families throughout the city of Oviedo. Here are some photos of my homestay, the surrounding neighborhood, and my host dads Pablo & Oskar.

DSC_2181My apartment complex’s outdoor patio area.

DSC_4023My room!

DSC_4037My apartment’s hallway.

DSC_4044The MonteNuño office buildings, right across the street from my apartment building.

DSC_4048The outside of my apartment building.

DSC_4054Some of the gorgeous mountainside that resides right across the street from my apartment

DSC_4073More amazing mountainside right down the street.

DSC_4086My host dads, Oskar and Pablo.

DSC_4103My apartment’s kitchen and dining area.

DSC_4117Me and my host dads!

Lifestyle Takeaways from Oviedo

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Lifestyle Takeaways from Oviedo

While I must say that some of the cultural differences here have thrown me for a loop (i.e. adjusting to the new sleeping & eating schedule), there are other differences I’ve found myself quite at home with. Early on in my stay here in Oviedo, and for the weeks that have ensued, I’ve noticed one thing in particular that I’m pretty fond of– the majority of people here seem to be quite environmentally conscious. In the United States, environmentalism seems to be something hopelessly entangled in politics, and more of a personal choice. Here, being extra thoughtful about your energy consumption and your impact on the surrounding world almost seems like a cultural phenomenon.

I say this only after comparing notes with many other students in our group, and I’ve had several conversations about it with my host mom. But of course, like all generalizations, this could just be the specific experience in Oviedo. When I got here, I knew friends were having difficulty adjusting to the fact that their laundry was done at only certain points in the week, or that they were expected to turn lights off behind them in the house. But this lifestyle, for me, is something I’ve been working at honing all my life, and something that gives me a lot of hope about the state of the world. I think it’s safe to say we could all learn something from some of the environmental habits I’ve seen here.

As I mentioned above, the majority of the host families only do their laundry at specific points in the week. I myself re-wear things like jeans and pants pretty often, unless they’ve gotten extremely dirty, and don’t rack up laundry extremely quickly anyway. However, I’m glad to hear that many of my friends are getting used to this adjustment. I’ve also been pleased to see how many people hang their laundry out to dry here. In fact, my host mom told me that most people simply do without drying machines. This might seem contradictory to the weather forecast here (did I mention there’s a lot of rain?), but somehow, most people manage with a clothesline and some sun. This is how my family often dried clothes when I was growing up in rural Lancaster County, but I love that living in a city doesn’t seem to stop anyone here. Here’s an example below- as you can see, there’s some sort of line outside of just about every window.

Apartment Complex Clothesline in Oviedo

Apartment Complex Clothesline in Oviedo

 

In addition to laundry habits, there is also a general expectation that you won’t shower for too long, especially if you do so every day. During previous travels I learned to cut my consumption down to an every-other day shower (which is great for maintaining healthy hair, too…), but I try to keep in mind that there is always more room to save water. For example, it’s not too big of a sacrifice to simply turn the water off while taking the time to shampoo, and in the long run, it can save quite a lot.

All in all, I’ve felt like I’ve been able to maintain integrity with my own values in terms of the environment during my stay here, which I really appreciate. I’ve been more conscious than ever about turning off lights, shutting doors to save heat, and watching my water consumption– and it feels great. Some of these things are habits I’ve been practicing all my life, but other tricks are new to me, and I’m grateful to be able to take some of these lessons back home with me to the states.

 

Traveling in Spain

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Over the past two weekends, I traveled to Bilbao and San Sebastián with several other students, and Barcelona by myself. Here are photos of some of the parts of Spain outside of Oviedo that myself and other students have explored:

DSC_3092Students hanging out in Bilbao after a 1-5:30am bus ride, waiting for the Guggenheim Museum to open at 10.

DSC_3113Students posing with the Temple University flag outside of the Guggenheim Museum.

DSC_3187Students taking in the beautiful scenery at Playa de la Concha.

DSC_3379Students exploring the hillside of Urgull in San Sebastián.

DSC_3440Students having a seaside breakfast right next to the gorgeous Playa de la Concha.

DSC_3715Local Barcelonians skating outside of the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, known more casually as MACBA.

DSC_3812The entrance to Barcelona’s Mercat de la Boqueria, located right by Las Ramblas.

DSC_3825The front of the sensational Catedral de Barcelona.

DSC_3960The unorthodox La Pedrera, an apartment building designed by the acclaimed Antoni Gaudí.

DSC_3983The streets of the Gothic Quarter on a rainy Barcelona day.

Getting Involved in Oviedo

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Getting Involved in Oviedo

 

Ever since arriving in Oviedo, I’ve felt a constant itch to become active in some sort of community group. This is nothing new for me—from a young age, I’ve always felt the most alive when taking on extracurricular activities.

I decided to ask Jaime for suggestions, figuring that there must be some club sport or music groups open to the student body at the University. However, I found that although there are clubs on Oviedo’s campus, they consist mainly of academic groups, like “The Medical Student Association.” So, Jaime pointed me in the direction of two different programs instead: a student association called Erasmus, which organizes events for international exchange students, and a “Buddy Program,” where the school matches you with a language partner.

Although I quickly jumped on board with seeking out Erasmus events and enrolling in the Buddy Program, I knew I still wanted to find an official group that meets habitually to convene around one common theme. For this, I turned to my host mom for suggestions. I told her that I primarily missed being involved in music, and upon hearing this, she said she knew just where to take me. She described a rehearsal for young people that takes place in a church, and said there would be many musicians there.

I realized after our discussion that I wasn’t really sure exactly where or what she was taking me to. It wasn’t so much a language barrier as simply not understanding the concept of what she was describing—was it a community chorus? A church service? A band? Instead of worrying too much before I got there, I decided to just go with it.

The following Sunday evening, my host mom led me through the city and to a flight of steps leading to a breathtaking church. She mentioned as we climbed that it was a seminary school.

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Catholic Church & Seminary School in Oviedo

“The rehearsal is here?” I asked tentatively. Was I about to crash a rehearsal of a bunch of seminary students? I didn’t want my confusion to come across as rude or offensive, so I kept it to myself, knowing I would figure it out sooner or later.

When we reached the church, we made our way into the dimly lit nave. The room was gorgeous, and at the front was a group of  5 young adults singing while a man accompanied on guitar. When the group finished their song, my host mom stepped forward to introduce me. She said I would be staying for rehearsal, told me she would see me for the mass afterwards, and was on her way.

Although I’m quite open to meeting new people, I felt a bit awkward, like I was interrupting the rehearsal. Luckily, the group was extremely welcoming, taking a moment to introduce themselves and offering me a chair. After handing over a packet of lyrics, they proceeded to rehearse. I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that I still didn’t really know where I was or what this rehearsal was for. After hearing the songs a few times, I started to join in on the singing.

After an hour we took a break, and I finally had a chance to chat with the others and figure out what was going on. They explained that they were the chorus for the “Misa Joven,” or the Catholic mass for young people in Oviedo. When the mass was about to start, they insisted I sing with them for the service too—and so it was. After one measly hour of rehearsal, I was singing songs in Spanish for a room full of strangers.

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Singing During Mass

As the service came to a close, I realized how extremely unique the experience had been. I’m not Catholic, or even very religious, but thoroughly enjoyed being a part of something new while singing and practicing my Spanish at the same time. I am now a part of the chorus’s WhatsApp chat, where they give updates on upcoming rehearsals, and have been in contact with a few of the friends I made there. I am still on the lookout for more ways to get involved here, but this is certainly a start!

Til next week!

 

 

 

 

La Casa de las Lenguas

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La Casa de las Lenguas, the University of Oviedo’s educational building, exists specifically to teach foreign students, or extranjeros, like us! As we wrap up the first month of the program, check out some photos of the campus, educational building and Temple students hard at work.

DSC_3606Right outside the Humanities campus at the University of Oviedo.

DSC_3612The Campus de Humanidades sign on campus.

DSC_3579Students Joseph and Kaitlyn hard at work in the cafeteria.

DSC_3644Students Joseph, Emma and Lucy studying in class.

DSC_3633Students having a laugh while in class with program director Jaime.

DSC_3636Program director Jaime helping out a student with her studies.

DSC_3639Jaime reading aloud to students in class.

DSC_3650La Casa de las Lenguas cafeteria.

DSC_3654Students socializing and drinking coffee in the cafeteria.

DSC_3659A group study session in full swing during a break in between classes.

A Different Pace of Life

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A Different Pace of Life

Since living here in Oviedo, I’ve become aware of a few stark differences between the Spanish lifestyle and the one that I’m used to leading back home in the U.S. When I refer to lifestyle, I’m talking about the general daily schedule here, including things like sleeping and eating habits. Although one can’t generalize about an entire culture, and many of these dissimilarities seem minute, I have found that the way I compartmentalize my time here has changed my perspective on how I go about my day.

I’ll begin by saying that I have always been someone who adores sleep, and will gladly sleep more than 8 hours at night if given the chance. To achieve this in the U.S., that means getting ready for bed around 10:30 PM and having the lights out by 11 PM or midnight (at the latest, of course!) on a work or school night. My friends back home often affectionately refer to me as a grandmother, which I unashamedly accept. Of course, my schedule varies when I don’t have to be fully awake and working the next day, but this is just a rough sketch.

That schedule, to my initial dismay, has been a little difficult to maintain here. I’ve been quite surprised at just how different the daily schedule is here in Spain, and after a full month, I’m only just starting to feel more adjusted. (Honestly, maybe it wouldn’t be as big of a transition for someone who doesn’t value sleep as much as me…but this is my experience!) Ever heard the phrase–“The Spanish never sleep”? This of course is a stereotype, but I have noticed that many seem to split their resting hours between a long afternoon siesta and a late-night snooze instead of the (in my mind, conventional:-) 8-hour night of sleep.

The average day starts around 8 or 9 AM, and many shops are only just beginning to open at this time. After waking up and having a light breakfast, I head off to school and make sure to bring plenty of snacks for the day. Why bring snacks? Well, for me, they are mandatory, because I don’t sit down for lunch until after class (2:30 or 3:30 PM), and I can’t go that long without food! However, after a few weeks, I realized that eating lunch at this time makes a lot of sense: you know that post-lunch sugar crash we all experience around 1PM during school and work days? It isn’t much of a problem here, because after a late lunch, you’re free to indulge that sugar crash and lay down for a siesta!

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Friends enjoying a cafe snack between meals

I have definitely come to take advantage of the guilt-free naps that are built into the schedule here, and this has tremendously shifted my sleeping schedule. To me, the inclusion of a siesta in my day has become a mark of moderation—why not give myself a break in the middle of a long day? Many stores shut down during the siesta anyway, so it just seems to make sense to stay home and relax! A lot of my friends here who aren’t big on naps still take the time to just decompress, and the whole city seems to get a little calmer and quieter around this time of day. The naps keeps me on par to stay wide awake for the usual 9 or 10 PM dinner, and give me energy for my new night owl schedule. It seems that no one sleeps here at least before midnight, and I’ve been surprising myself going to bed at 1 or 2 on school nights. (Weekends are a different story—the bars don’t even get going until after midnight!)

All in all, for someone who is used to a very structured sleeping and eating schedule, it’s been strange to lay down for a nap most days, turn the light off for bed at 2 in the morning, and shift most of my meals back by 3-4 hours. However, I realize that it’s just part of settling into life here, and if I truly want to enjoy what Spain has to offer, it’s best done if I go by their clock! And I must say, the days seem much longer (almost endless, and in the best way) when you follow a schedule like this one.

Til next week!

Everything to Learn yet Nothing to Lose: Childhood Take 2

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Everything to Learn yet Nothing to Lose: Childhood Take 2

            As I enter my third week living in Oviedo, I feel that I’m finally beginning to gain my footing, much as a child does when learning to take its first steps. I have always adored language learning and cultural immersion for that reason. It is incontestable: when immersing yourself in something new, whether prepared or not, you must essentially revert to the state of your inner child. It’s a beautiful thing to be wide-eyed with wonder, humbled by your ignorance, and forced to rely on questions, open-mindedness, and human connection to navigate through your days. This past week, I’ve relished in the excitement of aiming to maintain a constant state of eagerness, but not without moments of self-doubt and unease.

My sister, who travels full time as a musician, has told me that one of her favorite ways to meet locals in any new country is to have an appointment of some kind: to drop by the salon, schedule a dentist appointment, or so on and so forth. She urged me to do something of the sort in Oviedo, to which I shrugged and said that I probably wouldn’t really need any appointments. (I’m trying to grow my hair out, am not due for a checkup of any sort, and err on the side of [ok, I admit that it’s extreme] frugality when it comes to nonessential expenses…) Go figure, within my first week in Oviedo, an issue arose with an orthodontics apparatus that I’ve had for 5 years. I decided, with reluctance, that I couldn’t avoid getting it fixed. I’m all for new experiences, but sorting this out in another country just seemed like a hassle. Why couldn’t it have happened just 3 weeks sooner…?

Luckily, anyone studying in Oviedo through Temple must have an International SOS card, which supplies access to medical services and support. Although my situation wasn’t “medical” by definition, I was able to quell my anxieties and employ the help of SOS to schedule an appointment.

Well aware of my lack of orthodontic vocabulary and knowledge of dental procedures in general, I set about researching my problem both in English and Spanish and making a list of all the words I might need to have up my sleeve. Although I probably won’t use the words “central incisors” or “enamel” in Spanish again anytime soon , it was empowering to feel prepared for the conversations I would be having. I couldn’t help but laugh at how childish I felt, looking up words that I’ve known in English for what feels like my entire life. Another thing I knew I had to keep in mind is that equipment and methods always vary from country to country, so I prepared to accept the fact that their procedure and replacement might be different than what I was accustomed to.

All went well during the appointment, and as my sister claimed, it was a completely unique way to experience meeting a local in Oviedo. Despite having studied the vocabulary I would need, I still felt quite like a child going to their first dentist appointment—nervous, endlessly inquisitive, and quite inexperienced. I had my fair share of moments misinterpreting the attendants’ directions, shutting my mouth when told to open it larger, or biting down when told to release… It amazes me how the simplest of things, when experienced in a new language, convert to rich learning experiences. In hindsight, I’m glad that I had the chance to navigate the issue in Spanish, and like most of my experiences here, it’s opening my eyes to just how much I have yet to learn. And what’s there to lose? Maybe I’ll even schedule a hair trim.

Until next week! For now, I’m going to enjoy the sun… a rarity here in Oviedo. We’ve been very lucky to have about 16 degree Celsius (or 60 degree Fahrenheit) weather here the past few days!

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Rare Blue Skies on the University of Oviedo Campus

 

Settling Into our New City

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Our second week in Oviedo has been full of brand new places, flavors and adventures. Check out some of what we’ve been up to in the photos below:

DSC_2857Students enjoying sidra at the acclaimed Tierra Astur sidreria.

DSC_2876Students trying out some delicious Spanish cuisine at Tierra Astur.

DSC_2937Senior Max striking the Rocky pose after climbing a *ton* of stairs.

DSC_3006Students taking in the mountain scenery at Parque de Invierno.

DSC_3034Students enjoying a beautiful day in Parque de Invierno.

DSC_3042A lovely sunset from Parque de Invierno.

DSC_3051Students having an awesome time on a beautiful January day.

DSC_3060La Casa de las Lenguas, the University of Oviedo building where we are studying Spanish this semester.

DSC_3075A picturesque city sunset with Asturian mountains in sight.

DSC_3081A screening of the critically acclaimed Margarita, with a Straw at Oviedo’s Teatro Filarmónica, as part of their month-long screening series on social justice & human rights.

We’ve Arrived! Exploring Oviedo

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The first week of living in Oviedo has been a whirlwind of emotions. Here are some photos from exploring our new and exciting city:

DSC_2125Students enjoying some coffee while studying at a local cafe.

DSC_2234The Oviedo city welcome sign.

DSC_2471.jpgJunior Nikki poses on a bridge by Oviedo’s Parque de Invierno.

DSC_2489.jpgStudents explore the skatepark by Oviedo’s Parque de Invierno.

DSC_2511Junior Rachel striking a funny pose with a tree.

DSC_2514Calle Gascona, Oviedo’s “boulevard of Sidra.”

DSC_2633Students playing chess at a local bar.

DSC_2645Oviedo’s Catedral de San Salvador at night.

DSC_2755Oviedo’s Monumento al Sagrado Corazón de Jesús.

DSC_2772-2.jpgA landscape view of Oviedo and the mountains of Asturias.