Just the beginning
First Week In Valladolid
I hope everyone has enjoyed readying my posts thus far, because I have definitely enjoyed living these experiences and sharing them with everyone.
I have been in the city of Valladolid for almost one week now and I am loving every moment of it. As I stated in my last post, my host mom is incredibly nice and well versed when it comes to foreign students; everyday I love her more and more. She is a tiny Spanish lady in her 50s but you would think she’s 30 because she’s always running around the house and doing something. She makes me laugh so much because she thinks it’s so cold right now even though it’s been around 50 degrees everyday. She is a great cook and has been making different food for us everyday. For breakfast we usually have some sort of bread or pastry, an apple or orange, and juice. Then around 2 p.m. is when everyone eats lunch, which is the biggest and most important meal of the day for Spaniards. We’ve had a variety of dishes including garbanzo beans, eggs, pasta with marinara sauce, fried potatoes, and many others. Then around 8-9 p.m. we have dinner, which is usually smaller and lighter than lunch, something like salad or soup. It’s definitely different then the United States but I am becoming used to it and like it. When eating, my host mom prepares food and serves all her ‘children’ first, then later she will eat alone. It’s not that she doesn’t want to eat with us, that’s just a common thing to do and she wants to make sure we are all good and full before she eats. I also find it a little strange that she won’t let us help her clear the table or any other chores really. In the States it is encouraged to help out around the house but here it’s almost insulting if you do something because it’s like saying that it was done well enough by the mom or whoever is in charge. I guess it’s nice but it’s different getting used to. Overall, I am having a great experience with my home stay.
The city of Valladolid itself is also amazing. At first it seems like such a large city and like it would be impossible to navigate with all it’s alleys and zigzagging roads, but after a couple days of walking around it I can see that it’s no harder to navigate than Steven’s Point. The architecture in Valladolid is just as breathtaking as it was in Madrid. One of my favorite places in the city is La Plaza Mayor, which is like the main square. It was the first plaza built in a rectangular shapes and now today in Spain almost every plaza is modeled off of it, including the main one in Madrid. I think one of the reasons that the city is so pretty to is because most of the main car parking areas is underground. You don’t see huge parking ramps like you would in the States, which can be an eyesore. It makes it easier to appreciate the buildings and the more attractive parts of the city. I also love all the little cafes there are in Valladolid. It is very common to go out in the afternoon for a coffee or beer and hang out with friends so there is at least one cafe on almost every street. In Spain, it is not appropriate to bring friends over to your house to hang out like you would do in the United States, so a café is a good place to see your friends and pass time.
I am learning all the rich history that can be found in Valladolid as well, which was unexpected for me because it’s such a small city in Spain I didn’t think much happened here. I was blown away when I found out that both Miguel de Cervantes and Christopher Columbus lived in Valladolid. Two of the most famous people in the world lived in the city I am in right now! I walk past Cervantes’ house almost everyday, and I believe Columbus’ house is now a museum so I can’t wait to go check that out.
Not only is there such a rich history, there is always some sort of event going on in the city. It might be something like crazy sales on Calle de Santiago (a main shopping street), or a farmers market in La Plaza de España, or a big motorcycle convention with thousands of people packing the streets with their motorcycles (including Harley Davidsons). The spirit of the city is wonderful and I know I have hardly seen anything yet.
I feel like already increased my Spanish language skills tenfold. Several days ago we took the placement test for school and were placed into groups. I am in an intermediate group, which is exactly where I wanted to be placed. We’ve had our first week of classes and I’ve met all my professors, all of whom are wonderful. I love how almost no one here, including our professors, speaks English because that makes it that much important to practice and use Spanish. It is interesting to pick out the differences between school here and in the States. For example, in Spain the students sit in the same classroom and the teachers move around to each room. Learning a language while in a country that speaks that language makes so much sense. I learn something in the classroom, then afternoon immediately have use for it and can apply what I learned. When I am at home I speak Spanish giving me more practice. My host mom and host sister from Mexico assist and correct my roommate from Stevens Point and I, which again reinforced proper grammar and usage. I get so excited every time I have a conversation because I impress myself so much; I am in Spain, speaking Spanish, and I’m actually doing pretty good. Today, someone on the street asked me for directions, I mean I must be doing something right then!
I know this is just the beginning and I have much more in store in the future. Next weekend we go on our first school excursion to Segovia, and the weekend after I am going to Paris for fun with a friend that I met because of this trip. I am learning that studying abroad, and just life in general, is all about connections and knowing the right people. I am trying to make friends with everyone just because you never know who you might need a favor from one day. I have been trying to talk to all my tour guides, professors, and classmates so everyone gets to know me and I get to know them. I guess it’s just the business major in me coming out and trying to almost market myself, haha.
Anyway, thank you to everyone for reading and I hope that I am reaching everyone in someway. Please look for my next post coming in a couple weeks after I go on some excursions and spend more time in this beautiful country.
Alexia Szabo, a junior majoring in accounting, Spanish and international studies at UW-Stevens Point, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Spain.