¿Hablas Español?

Coming to Europe I knew that English was the most learned language, but I did not realize how many people really knew it. In every country I have traveled, English was a requirement in school – or at least seemed like it because of the level of their language. While I could usually find someone who spoke English in the different countries, I started to notice the difference between those countries and Spain.

I feel as if the majority of Spanish people do not know much English at all. I guess I expected that coming over, but in my intensive language course I took at the beginning, everyone spoke fluent English. It might just be my region of Spain, but I can only count a few people who could have a simple conversation in English. While that has been my observation so far, I know my conclusion about this can be very wrong since I am sure everything is extremely subject to region. I just found the level of language in different areas an interesting topic especially in comparison to the US when barely anyone I know learns another language in school.

Fallas

Fallas is basically a month long festival here in Valencia starting March 1st. It ends with the burning of the different statues that each small neighborhood makes. A short description of Fallas would include Mascleta, a type of firework that just makes sound, in the main square, fireworks being blown up in the street by children, and the Falleras walking around with a small band behind to announce their entrance. This festival was by far one of the most memorable events I went to.

With every passing day, the energy in the city increased exponentially. The final nights had 30 minute long firework shows, mini dancing clubs that were set up in tents on the streets, and the final of burning of the statues. This festivity and my experiences with it could take up pages and pages. The only thing I can compare it to in the US would be a mix of 4th of July, a state fair, and a Thanksgiving Day parade plus burning stuff. Even that description still doesn’t describe it because of the importance of religion and the traditional dresses that cost thousands of dollars worn in all of the events.

One of the neighborhood statues that was later burned.

Falleras giving roses to fill up Mary.

 

The main burning in the city center.

Fallas was a fun experience, but I must admit it was nice when it was over. With being woken up at 8 in the morning with our neighborhood’s Fallera’s march, staying up for night festivities, and the kid’s fireworks that would always sound like a shotgun even if you were expecting it, I was slightly relieved when March was over. I actually learned later that my roommates from Spain left for the weekend! All-in-all it was a great experience, and I would be down to come back and visit for the festival… but maybe not the whole month again jaja!

My Necessities Abroad

I have been in Spain now for a while and have successfully procrastinated on posting my blog posts. I mean I’m just trying to do life the Spanish way, you know?? But over the past couple of months, I have created a list of things that I wish I had brought or am extremely glad I took with me. With that being said, I am glad to join the countless posts about items you must bring for your semester or travel abroad with this blog.

Before leaving for Spain, I was constantly looking at people’s lists of “What to Bring to your Semester Abroad” and “27 Must-Need Gadgets for Abroad”. I found that most of those lists only had one or two items that were really relevant and I would actually use. Every location and person is different for what they will need abroad, but I have tried to select the more general items.

 

In no particular order:

 

  1. Wrinkle Releaser

I use this almost daily, and it’s probably the most used item I brought from back home. I have even gotten a travel spray bottle so I can take it on airplanes. Most of my travel friends here have asked if they can buy it in Spain (which I am sure you can, but I’ve never checked). It is perfect if you don’t have an iron or if you have to reuse clothes because most wrinkle releasers have odor cancelling fresh scents as well, which will allow you to be summer fresh and wrinkle free for your entire trip even if you’re wearing the same shirt for the third time.

  1. Luggage Scale

While I do not have to use this item very often, it has proven useful for obvious reasons. You will no longer have to open your suitcase in the middle of the airport to repack your luggage because it weighs too much. I am very glad I brought this and many people have asked to borrow it from me for when they travel.

  1. Portable Charger

This item is on most lists of things to bring abroad because it actually is very useful. Especially for plane rides and for traveling days in general because you don’t realize how much battery you use up when you are 1 – bored on a 5 hour bus ride or 2 – In a new city and have no idea how to speak the language or know where you are. It is always good to have a back up in those situations because those situations usually go together.

  1. Travel Bottles

These are the perfect size for airplane carryon and they are made to deal with different pressures, so you don’t really have to worry about them leaking! I have bought more for myself since I have been here. They have different styles and sizes to ensure you can bring what ever you need.

Going along with this, if you are want to bring perfume or cologne they have travel size containers out there that are refillable! They last quite a while too.

  1. Filter Water Bottle

This is something I didn’t take with me, but I wish I had. In Spain, the water from the faucet doesn’t taste that great so most people buy large plastic bottles for home drinking and small water bottles for daily use. This is a money saver and when you go to other countries, you have a free source of water.

  1. Checkable BackPack

This is something I bought right before I left and am extremely grateful. I use this on all side trips and am able to pack everything I need. It might be easier to find a roller carryon, but I think it’s worth it to find a backpack. Firstly, when you first arrive abroad it is not fun to maneuver 2 roller bags when you are already exhausted and tired. Also, on side trips, it is much slower to be dragging a roller behind. It also makes you more obvious that you are a tourist, so I would definitely recommend the backpack option.

7. TSA Locks

These are mainly for peace of mind. They are double sided, so if you’re in a pickle and are having to sleep in the airport or on a train, you can clip your luggage to you belt or purse strap making it more difficult for people to take it. That might be all you need to deter thieves.

8. Olloclips

These are simple to use and give you some variety to your pictures. At first, I was dead set on getting a new camera to take with me, but since I have never been heavy into cameras or photography, these lenses have given me the perfect balance. I get more variety and they are small and easy to use.

9. Selfie stick

Embrace the selfiestick. It is a great life filled with fun pics.

10. Peanut Butter

I miss peanut butter rn so it’s on the list. Most places here don’t have it or it is low quality peanut butter. Plz bring me some. There’s no appreciation for that wonderful nut here. SOS

Study Abroad Meeting

During my study abroad meeting, we learned all about the basic need to know about going abroad. It was actually very similar to the slide show that I constructed when I was an intern for the OUA program, so much of the information was review since I had stared at those slides for hours last fall! But it was definitely good to review that information as it was slightly different than the info in the OUA slides that I helped with. At the end of the meeting, students that had either studied abroad or were international students from that area came to give information to the new people who were going to the same places advise and answer questions about the programs or areas. There was no one for my school in Spain since I am the first person from OU going, and I guess my friend I meet at OU Cousins didn’t get the memo! I am excited though because hopefully other OU students after me will go to this program and I can answer any of their questions that I am still trying to figure out!

Beginning the Process of Abroad

While I have been abroad on a short term trip, realizing that I will be gone for an entire semester is a little daunting. This will be an experience that I know I will absolutely love and will grow so much from, but I am beginning to realize that the trip is only in a few short weeks and I really haven’t prepared done anything for this trip yet (a part from getting my visa). Now that finals are over though, I now officially have time to really get excited and prepare for this trip. I feel that since I really haven’t done anything for this trip, I am more nervous about it than excited, but I know the more I do for it the more I will get excited for my adventures in Spain!

My Friend is actually getting back from Ireland this week and I know I she will give me great tips as she got to travel a ton on the weekends. I think she ended up going to around 10 different countries during her 3 month stay. Hopefully I will be able to top that!

Teaching English

Teaching English has definitely been a learning process. You always here that Spanish teachers that are not fluent speakers are usually better at teaching the language because they had to go through the same process the student are currently. I am definitely experiencing the difficulties I imagine native Spanish speakers experience when trying to teach their language. The ideas that have helped me through is remembering how my Spanish teacher taught Spanish to me as well as being around elementary teachers. I am trying to learn how to start from the very beginning with English with the young students so they don’t feel overwhelmed in anyway and feel encouraged that they are improving. I have seen so much improvement which I know mostly comes from being immersed most of the day at school.

OU Cousins X2

During an OU Cousins Event, I randomly started talking to this guy, and it turns out he usually goes to the university that I am going to next semester. I honestly didn’t think that I was going to have any information about this school before I left. I was definitely excited about this opportunity that meeting this person gave me. He ended up telling me about all of the festivals that I needed to go to in the Spring as well as different restaurants/bars. It turns out that he might be going back to Valencia next semester which would honestly be so helpful. Even though I am nervous that I am the only person from OU going, I know that there are always people out there willing to help me!

OU Cousins

I had the opportunity to attend an OU Cousins event at the Kappa House to meet international students. I got to meet a lot of students I wouldn’t usually have the chance to talk with. Even though there was football on the lawn projector, most of the attention was on the cheese bread and the wings that were provided. When I first arrived at the event, I got to talk with two girls from England. Since my friend just visited England, I had many things to talk with them about, but the most entertaining thing was the terminology they used. We frequently had to stop each other and clarify certain words. I always knew that even though we spoke the same language that there were certain words that were completely different. It was just crazy to experience it first hand.

Cultural Support

I was able to go to the  welcome ceremony held for the arrival of the Tibetan monks during this past semester as well. I was intrigued to see what would happen at this kind of event because the last place I could have ever imagined Tibetan monks to come visit would be Norman, Oklahoma. I wasn’t able to stay for the whole event, but the Tibetan monks started with a blessing, which was then followed by a cultural Native American dance. The speaker explained the garb of the dancers that were about to come up. Another interesting part was when the public could join in the dance as long as you stayed with the appropriate gender. The monks happily jumped in when they were allowed, as well as some of the other audience members. In this way, it was strange to watch how these cultures from opposite ends of the world collided with ours in one place. I always love to see the acceptance and support of different cultures especially by obviously different people.

Eve of Nations

I was able to attend the Eve of Nations this semester and this event was definitely one to remember. It was amazing to see all of the different cultures present in one show. Seeing the contrast and similarities in different dances and songs intrigued me. One of my favorites parts is was the music. This past semester I took a music about the influence of different music in movies and it really helped me appreciate this event even more. I love how the different uses and sounds it can have when played differently or when it has different influences. It is incredible to think about how all of this culture is present on our campus.