Jocelyn Swanson is a junior Foreign Language Major concentrating in Spanish, with a Music Minor at EIU. She has just kicked off her fall semester at Malaca Instituto in Malaga, Spain.
You can keep up with her this semester via her blog: http://jswans.wordpress.com/
“Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
- Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite movies, and in my experience of leaving the United States and entering Spain, I felt the same as Dorothy. This was my first time leaving the country and I had only flown once round trip, so I had no idea what to expect. Saying goodbye to my parents was hard, and I didn’t know what to do going through security, so I asked random strangers questions. I was lucky and met people along the way who answered my questions, and I met someone who helped me navigate the Madrid Airport, which was a relief!
To be honest, I expected that customs would be a lot more difficult, but all I had to do was hand over my passport and boarding pass. They looked at it and then stamped it. I had documentation and multiple copies, but didn’t have to use it.
The challenges started when I arrived in Málaga. Going to three different carousels to find my luggage, not understanding the people, and trying to find a payphone to call my mom was exhausting. My first experience of the city was getting lost in 80 degree weather wearing jeans, a hoodie, and hauling around a 40lb suitcase and 25lb backpack, but I managed to get to where I needed to go. I took a bus from the airport and got off a stop too early. Luckily my experiences since then have been better!
I felt really insecure about my speaking skills at the beginning. I hadn’t spoken Spanish for about 3 months since coming home for the summer. Trying to navigate was overwhelming—I felt like I didn’t belong and couldn’t communicate. But a couple days with my host family helped immensely, and my skills have picked up so much since. It’s truly amazing how studying a language in its native country helps to learn it!
One of the most annoying things was that the banks are only open from 8:30-2:45ish. I had brought cash to exchange but I slept 17 hours my first night here, waking up at 4pm. I could only sleep one hour on the plane. Because I was busy, it took me 6 days to finally get to the bank while it was open. I have to admit that I am still adjusting to the food—I’ve had some appetite issues and have been trying to stick to familiar food. I have visited the same Italian restaurant 4 times since being here, though. I’m a sucker for pizza!
Being in Spain hasn’t gone exactly as I’ve expected, but one thing is for sure: I am falling more in love with the language than I thought possible!
Mil gracias, Jocelyn