Postcard from Abroad: Nobody Prepares You for How Exhausting Going Abroad Is
By Lindsay Richwine
MADRID – I’ve been tired for four weeks straight now. I swear to you, nobody in Spain sleeps. They just down another cafecito and keep on going. They START going out at 2:00 a.m. here. Back at Gettysburg, 2:00 a.m. for me means Pizza House, then sleep.
Speaking of food, dinner here is at 10:00 p.m. They don’t really do breakfast and lunch here either. If you want to eat between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., you’ve only really got one option—bread. If you’re lucky, they might slap a sliver of meat on the bread and call that a sandwich. I never thought I’d say I’m tired of bread but at this point I am 95% baguette and my body is begging me to stop.
Other than the bread overload and the lack of sleep, things are mostly good. I’m learning lots of Spanish from Maria, my profesora. Among other things, Maria has taught us how to say, “you’re cool but I’m not into you like that,” “I fell in love with Brad Pitt,” “go ahead and die for all I care,” and “that wine made me feel awful.” All relevant phrases.
My host sister taught me how to say twerking which leads me to another point—the PDA in Spain.
It’s not subtle. Our program coordinator explained that since most Spanish teenagers live with their parents until they’re around 25 or so, they only have alone time with the person they’re dating when they’re in public. Now, I’m not opposed to PDA. I think holding hands and a quick kiss before you get on the metro is cute. What’s not super cute is sticking your tongue down someone’s throat on the train, grabbing your girlfriend’s ass on the escalator, or dry-humping in the park. I’ve seen it all. Maybe I’m just being an uptight American, but what can I say? Public dry humping makes me a little uncomfy.
What do I like about Spain? I like tapas, sitting in the park, grocery shopping, eating my host mom Piluca’s paella, learning about architecture and being able to recognize an arco de medio punto when I see one, traveling to other places, tortilla, and tinto de verano. Wandering through old neighborhoods and getting crepes, making friends with Irish tourists, and taking cooking classes break up the days and make these three months worthwhile. I’m still worried about not learning enough Spanish, and there are times when I miss home so much it hurts. But I’m not gonna lie—I’m proud of myself. I’m really growing, and, cliché as it is, I’m figuring out who I am. There’s no better way to find yourself than to leave everything that’s familiar, everything you thought made you who you are. It’s uncomfortable at first. It is. But it’s worth it.
So, as my first month here comes to a close, I’ll be honest: going abroad is not easy. Of course, everyone’s experience is different. For me, it’s been a little bumpy. The low point was probably crying in a Five Guys. The high point? Sitting on a boat in Lyon, watching the sunset between an old friend and a new friend, proud of myself for booking an AirBnB for the first time in my life, and feeling incredibly lucky to be right there, right then. I can’t guarantee it, but I think it’s only going to go up from there. I’ll keep you posted.
This “postcard from abroad” appears on page 14 of the October 31, 2019 edition of The Gettysburgian’s print magazine. To submit your own postcard from abroad, email firstname.lastname@example.org.