Author Archives: ninadevitryoviedo

Hiking in Oviedo

Hiking in Oviedo

This past week, I discovered perhaps my favorite thing about Oviedo—its surrounding nature and outdoor opportunities. Living in Oviedo, we are situated in the extremely mountainous principality of Asturias. I had heard rumors that the hiking around these parts was phenomenal, but it took experiencing a day trip for myself to realize how amazing it really is.

Over the weekend, a group of 6 of us from Temple decided to seek out a trail called “La Ruta de Las Xanas,” or “the route of the fairies.” My host mom had been encouraging me to explore Oviedo’s surrounding nature for weeks, and I’m not sure why it took me so long to finally jump on this opportunity. Before going on the hike, she made sure to give me all the background information and history of the area. I was pretty excited to see it for myself, because she made it sound pretty magical. There is a lot of folklore in Oviedo’s culture, and according to legend, these mountains are home to “las xanas,” or the fairies.

Getting to the hike couldn’t have been easier—a local bus passes right by the head of the trail, and all we had to do was alert the bus driver to where we were going. I found this pretty cool, since I don’t know of any buses where I’m from back home that take you straight to a hiking trail! The ride was only about 40 minutes, although I have to warn anyone who’s thinking of taking this trip in the future to take some motion sickness medication first… the route twisted and turned quite a bit, and let me just say we were all ready for some fresh air when we reached the stop!


Temple students at the head of the trail

We couldn’t have had more perfect hiking weather. It was nearly 70 degrees, the sun was shining, and there was a slight breeze. After only about 5 minutes of hiking we reached the main trail, and we were all pretty awestruck. Before coming that day, a friend from school had given me these words of advice: “Just don’t fall off!” He of course was only joking, but when I realized we would be hiking next to a cavernous ravine, I stayed as far from the edge as possible…


The winding path of “La Ruta de Las Xanas”

We hiked along this winding trail between two mountains for about 45 minutes before making it to a path in the woods. My favorite thing about the hike was how drastically the landscape changed as we went. In the beginning there were cliffs, in the middle a shady grove, and at the end, a mountaintop meadow like something out of “The Sound of Music.”


We made it to the top!

We all agreed that it was a pretty perfect day, and felt quite accomplished when making it to the tiny village at the top of the mountain. We were greeted by an enormous flock of free-roaming sheep with tinkling cowbells, 3 extremely fluffy and friendly dogs, and a crazy view of where we had just come from. On our hike back to the bus stop, we even saw some mountain goats…


Some mountain goats that got quite close…

As someone who has always felt at home in nature, I was thrilled to discover how exceptional the hiking is around Oviedo. As the weather gets warmer, I have plans to do many more day trips like this, and to experience as much of the countryside here as I can!

Til next week!


Missing the Little Things: Know Your Essentials!

Missing the Little Things: Know Your Essentials!

I can still clearly remember sitting in the Education Abroad Office this past November for our group’s information session, discussing how to best prepare for our upcoming journey. We covered various bases and received a wide array of tips ranging from mental preparation exercises to packing suggestions, but there was one piece of advice given that I almost completely overlooked. Jaime made it clear: Bring any sort of personal care items you’re attached to, especially important medications, because these might be tricky to get in Spain. I of course took this part seriously and made sure to bring along any prescription medications that I would need, but beyond that I didn’t think too far. Being a bit type A, I did bring a small bag with an assortment of things like NyQuil and Advil, but nothing that would last more than a few days.

So far during the program, I’ve had 2 colds and occasional allergies as well. This is abnormal for me, thus why I came quite unprepared without thinking twice, but colds have definitely been going around. Some locals say it’s easier to catch a cold here because of the fluctuating weather patterns, but who knows. I never thought I was attached to brands, but let me tell you, I’ve never missed Mucinex, NyQuil, and Halls cough drops more. Don’t get me wrong, they do have plenty of medicine here, and very helpful pharmacists. But there’s something strange about reading active ingredients on a box in another language, even if you know by googling that you’ve found the generic form of the same thing you use back home. Maybe it’s the placebo effect, but I love the cold medicine I’m used to, and I absolutely wish I had brought more along just in case. The same thing goes for cough drops- in general I’ve found that cough drops aren’t very commonly used here, and while I was sick I sorely missed my favorite flavor, Honey & Lemon. Luckily, I found loads of Honey & Lemon cough drops during a trip to Glasgow a few weeks back and made sure to stock up. I also snagged a few boxes of Ginger Tea, another personal favorite that I can’t seem to find in Oviedo.

I also assumed that I would be able to order more of my favorite face wash online after it ran out, but after a few online searches, I realized that the company I use doesn’t ship out of the United States. I then checked Amazon, and learned that because of certain import laws, my U.S. Amazon account wouldn’t ship to Spain either. I was starting to get frustrated—was I even going to get it shipped to me? I spent almost an hour on Google until I found that I could order my product through Amazon France, and I’m pretty sure I checked about 7 other countries’ Amazons before I found one that would ship to Spain! Although I felt silly for “needing” the same old product I’m used to, I think there’s a lot to be said for remaining consistent with the personal care items you’re comfortable with.


A few essentials that I could have brought more of…


I now know that if there’s something I’m pretty attached to, I need to prepare when traveling by bringing enough for the future. Sure, they have everything you need here and more, but there’s something comforting about using personal care essentials you’re used to. In the midst of all the other cultural adjustments, it’s nice to at least drink your favorite flavor of tea or know that you won’t have to spend weeks letting your skin adjust to a new face wash! Leaving behind the things you know is a beautiful part of immersion, but it can’t hurt to bring a few things you rely on back home to make your time just a little bit easier.


Beginning to Feel at Home

Beginning to Feel at Home

Yesterday evening I was sitting and chatting with a friend in El Parque de Invierno, a gorgeous park on the edge of Oviedo. Here, sitting on the top of the grassy hill overlooking the park, it’s easy to spend hours passing time and admiring the nearby snow-capped mountains that cradle the city. We were exchanging thoughts about our adjustments to being abroad, and she said: “Yesterday when I returned back here on the bus from Leon, I texted my parents in the U.S. that I was home. When did this place become home, and not just Oviedo?”

We sat pondering this, and started to reminisce about happenings from earlier on in our stay. Heck, moreover, when did it become the middle of our stay, and not the beginning? In just a few short days it will be March, and we will have been in Spain for more than 2 months. We agreed, almost proudly, that perhaps we’ve made it through one of the most difficult parts of studying abroad— what I’ll dub the “getting used to” phase.

Although I can’t speak for everyone in the group, I think I myself can finally say that I’m getting into the swing of things here. There are still many places and things to be discovered, but I walk the streets of the city easily now, rarely relying on my GPS. My walk to school is familiar, as are the group’s favorite spots to grab tapas and a drink on the weekend. I’ve even come to befriend some stray cats that linger around the corner from my apartment building, and to recognize certain strangers on my daily commute. I know the customs within my house here well, am communicating more easily than ever with my host mom, and find myself always looking forward to her go-to meals and our long dinner conversations. Recognizing that things have become more comfortable and routine is a breath of fresh air—what can I say, humans thrive on familiarity!

Yet, as things get more familiar here, I continue to work on finding ways to step out of my comfort zone. Most often, this takes the form of attending some event I’ve seen posted on fliers around the university. This past weekend I went to a free day of yoga that a nearby studio was offering, and it was yet another way to get involved here and experience something new.

Having done a 200-hour yoga teacher training in 2017, I was extremely interested in comparing the yoga culture here to what I know in the states. What I found was actually quite surprising—aside from the obvious difference that the classes, meditations, and Spanish “charlas” (chats on specific subjects) were taught in Spanish, the root of everything was quite similar to what I learned and teach in the U.S. I felt immediately welcomed by the fragrant incense, smiling faces, and free Chai tea and cookies in the studio, and was pretty gratified when I realized I could follow along with the majority of the teacher’s directions during class. I attended the day alone and even made a few friends during breaks, who recommended studios and classes I could attend regularly here in Oviedo.


Free Yoga Class at El Centro de Yoga Ashtanga in Oviedo

As different as things may seem here in Oviedo, I’m coming to see day by day that things may not truly be as different as they appear on the outside (cliché, I know… but true!). Sure, there are handfuls of new customs, foods, and traditions to be experienced and learned (as well as an entire new language, yes), but there’s really not so much to be feared. The longer I’m here, the more I try new things, the more I practice my Spanish, and the more I recognize the connectedness of the world as a whole, the more Oviedo starts to feel like a home away from home.


Football or Fútbol?

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.


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.


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!)

Lifestyle Takeaways from Oviedo

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.


Getting Involved in Oviedo

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.


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.


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!





A Different Pace of Life

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!


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

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!


Rare Blue Skies on the University of Oviedo Campus


Adjusting to Life in Oviedo: Week 1

Adjusting to Life in Oviedo: Week 1

On Monday, January 8th, after 5 hours of cross-country travel through landscape ranging from sunlit fields to snow-capped mountains, we reached Oviedo. As our bus neared the stop, a throng of people waiting by the curb came into view—our eager and expectant host families. Within minutes we would meet them, and for me, the reality of this was only just setting in.

After a brief set of directions from Jaime, we scrambled from the bus to gather our bags and find our match. Before I knew it, I was in a taxi with my host mom, exchanging nervous banter and watching the city rush by.

The first evening was both exhilarating and exhausting. As I emptied my suitcase and settled into my new room, I couldn’t help but feel a little strange. This was all so bittersweet. My host mom seemed more than warmhearted, the apartment picturesque and artsy, and my room extremely cozy, but I instantly was flooded with a nostalgia for my own family and home.

Soon, it became clear that I wasn’t the only one feeling this sense of culture shock. That evening, our group’s Whatsapp message was going off nonstop. “I have 2 dogs at my house, but I’m allergic!!”—“Does anyone else live near the Burger King??”–“I have no idea how to use my shower!” We were all was checking in, sharing first impressions and feelings. It seemed that the juxtaposition of transitioning from a social hotel experience to an isolated home-stay was at least slightly jarring for everyone. We were all excited, but a little overwhelmed by our individual experiences.

After soaking in the comforts of the Whatsapp group chat, I decided to set technology aside so I could enjoy my first night and avoid comparing it to everyone else’s. I spent the night conversing and laughing with my new mom, eating lots of bread and olive oil, and touring the city. [Fun fact: I live right near a 16th Century Aqueduct! If you like history, this city is for you… there’s a piece of the past almost everywhere you turn!] After a 3-hour walk, I was grateful to retire to my room to process the day and get some rest.

16th Century Aqueduct… My Landmark for When I Get Lost

Although the first day was intense, things have definitely been getting easier throughout the course of the first week. Reuniting with the group in classes on Tuesday morning was much needed, and everyone felt more at ease after conversing with friends about the new adjustments. It’s true that studying abroad should be an immersion experience, but it’s also great to have classmates to rely on when you need a little bit of grounding!

The more I have grown to know my host mom, the more comfortable I feel. One of the most ironic things that has happened this week was a dinner conversation we had a few days ago. She began to tell me of her obsession with a group called the Amish, to which I responded—”I’m from Lancaster, my neighbors are Amish!” This excited her to no end, and she asked me if I’d ever seen a movie called “El último testigo.” She said she had just watched it last week, and that it was one of her favorite Amish movies. The coincidence baffled me. This movie, called “Witness” in English, was filmed in Lancaster in 1985, and my parents served as extras. She was delighted when I had my dad text some pictures from the set!

My feelings of belonging and contentment were doubled when she revealed an upright piano and heaps of old music in one of the apartment’s rooms. With each little connection like this, I’m reminded that you can always find pieces of home wherever you travel.

There has been plenty to process here during my first week, and I look forward to updating the blog with all of my future adventures! Stay tuned!

Siestas & Scrambled Eggs with Eels: Orientation in Madrid

Siestas & Scrambled Eggs with Eels: Orientation in Madrid

As of today, our Temple Spain group has officially been in Spain for one week—and what a week it’s been! On Wednesday January 3rd, we all arrived on separate flights to Spain’s capital, Madrid. This is where we would spend 5 full days orienting to our new lives in Spain.

I arrived to Madrid at 9 AM on the 3rd, and the first day was a blur. Although I had tried my best to pack light, the combination of lugging 2 backpacks and a guitar through the Madrid airport plus experiencing the onset of jet lag was a rough start to the trip. Our group leader, Jaime, had advised us to avoid taking a long nap upon arrival so as not to make our adjustment harder, but I knew I would have to give in to the time change eventually. After all, isn’t Spain the land of siestas? After taxiing to the Hotel Opera in center city to drop off my things, I met up with two friends in the group to explore the city. We all felt a bit foggy since in U.S. time it would have been about 4 or 5 AM, so the three of us chose to rest for a while in a café.

We laughed when the waiter brought us menus in English, wondering if we were really that obvious. We took the Spanish menus on the table instead, and promised each other to speak only in Spanish for the rest of the meal. I knew that the true immersion wouldn’t start until we arrived to our host families in Oviedo, but I wanted to start practicing as soon as I could. What we realized quite quickly is that it takes a massive amount of concentration and will power to maintain a second-language conversation when you’re hanging out with people who speak your first language. After speaking for a bit, we would each accidentally switch back over to English without even noticing. In a setting where you have peers who you know well, it’s definitely a team effort to improve at language study. You constantly have to remind and encourage your friends (or be reminded and encouraged by your friends!) to keep up the practice!

Our first night in Madrid, we got to enjoy a group dinner at the Hotel Opera. This was our first typical Spanish dining experience—one lighter starter entrée, a second heavier entrée like meat or fish, plenty of wine and fizzy “casera” (a soda used to mix & balance out the wine’s flavor), and a rich dessert to top it all off. I wondered if this extravagant meal might just be a “welcome” feast, but quickly realized that this sort of multi-course experience is typical for both lunch and dinner in Spain. I’m not complaining! As the waiter explained our options for each course, I was lost by the regional vocabulary he used to describe many of the foods. We’re lucky that we had Jaime to help translate, because I really didn’t want to accidentally order pig’s stomach or scrambled eggs with eels (maybe in a few months… but I’m not that brave yet!). I’ve come to realize in one short week that the Spanish seem to eat everything. I never thought I was a picky eater, but I now know without a doubt that I have a lot of room to expand my culinary horizons while living here.


The First Supper

To give us a taste (no pun intended) of some of the most important history surrounding the region of Madrid (Madrid is the capital of Spain, but also one of the nation’s “comunidades autónomas”), we took day trips on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. While I loved our excursions to the El Prado art museum, the charming ancient cities of Toledo and Segovia, and the historic El Escorial, I also found myself enchanted by simply being in Madrid. I reveled in the constant buzz of Spanish and the beauty and distinctiveness of the streets and shops, and quickly came to accept the miserable fact that I will never be as fashionable as 99% of those who live here. I did, however, purchase a pair of fashionable rain boots after ignoring Jaime’s advice to bring some and nearly freezing my feet in the Segovian snow… but that’s another story. (More on weather preparedness later…)


Improper Shoes in Segovia

Monday finally arrived, and we bused 5 hours to the city where we will spend our next 5 months, Oviedo. A long day of travel, exhaustion, and anxiety surrounding meeting our host families made for an intense day!


The Road to Oviedo

We are now settling in for our second week in Spain and getting accustomed to our classes, families, and life in Oviedo. For everyone, it seems to be full of both the good and the bad, the exciting and the terrifying… and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Stay tuned for an update on all of the coming adventures 🙂