As far as expectations go, I tried to limit mine so I could come into this study abroad with an open mind. I didn’t want to set all kinds of goals that I would then either have to struggle to meet or just not meet altogether. I know some people who came here already knowing what they would be doing every weekend and where they would be travelling and where everything in the city was. I preferred to let all of that happen around me and see where I ended up. Lazy? Perhaps. But I would say it worked out pretty well for me.
Of course I expected to learn Spanish and meet new people, but that is pretty basic. I ended up travelling to Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, and Florence, and those trips happened basically because I knew some people that were going and decided to hop on board. If anything, I probably set my Spanish expectations too high. I came to Spain hoping to achieve some sort of mastery over the language, and I would say that hasn’t quite happened. I would definitely say I am fluent, but it is still pretty obvious to most people that I am not from Spain when I talk to them. I understand them and they understand me, but just like English there are countless phrases and witticisms that would take more than four months to conquer.
I will miss a number of things from this trip when I return home. Just being able to walk up to a stranger and converse with them in a different language is such a thrill. It really feels like a door to a whole different world has been opened. I was so honored the few times that Spaniards told me my Spanish or my accent was good. It’s not something you can ever really get in a classroom. After my trip to Italy, I was relieved to come back to Spain and a language that I spoke. It turns out that while Italian and Spanish are both romance languages, they aren’t that similar at all. Sure some words sound the same, but if you try to talk to an Italian in Spanish you will probably just receive a blank stare.
The other thing that I will miss is just living in Valencia. I grew up in Harrisonburg, Virginia and then moved to the outskirts of Farmville, Virginia. Valencia is the first big city I have lived in and I really enjoyed the life here. Valencia isn’t so big like Madrid or Barcelona where it takes forever to get around, but it’s not too small either. I don’t feel as though I have run out of things to do or places to go, and I thoroughly enjoy walking and biking around the city. It is a beautiful place that has an old European feel to it and emits a pleasant yellow glow at night. I’m not entirely sure how; I suppose it has something to do with the street lights and architecture. Valencia will always hold a special place in my heart and I highly recommend studying here to anyone who might be interested. Or even if you’re not interested, you should do it anyway.
Atop the Duomo in Florence
The Pope in Vatican Square