Friday, March 19, 2010

And the tides change...

Last November a group at the University of Michigan’s campus presented an overview of what the typical student that studies abroad will go through. Emotionally, they told us that it would be like a roller coaster. There would be days when we maybe didn’t want to get out of bed, when we would be more emotional than normal and days when we just really wanted to go back to America.

I didn’t believe them. It wouldn’t happen to me, I thought. I’m ready for this adventure.

And then once I got here, my parents asked me, “Do you miss America?”

“No,” I responded. Cold? Perhaps. Honest? Always.

Because the truth of the matter is, I don’t really miss America. I miss my family and my friends, but doing this feels so right. There is no other place I would rather be right now, than exactly where I am.

Well, until this afternoon at 5:45pm.

Because in that moment, when I realized I would not be able to watch the NCAA opening-round battle between Minnesota and Xavier I wanted nothing to do with this unpalatable country.

Yes, I considered crawling back into my bed. Yes, I was far too emotional when I realized that the local Irish pub would not be televising this significant sporting event. And yes, all I wanted in that heartbreaking moment was to be back in America, on a couch, watching my beloved Gophers.

March is my favorite month. I hate to say it, but I think my grades drop a bit during March Madness. I mean, when you have 65 teams battling for a national championship on the hardwood, with most games televised somewhere, how could they not slip?

Why Spain, must you torture me with all your fĂștbol fandom? Why Spain, does everyone here care about sports like bullfighting, which is just stabbing a bull in the back with pointy sticks, when there’s that artistically perfect game I like to call baloncesto (Spanish translation, basketball)? Why Spain, can’t you appreciate the beauty of a 16-seed team valiantly taking on a national powerhouse?

And so, I sat at my computer and watched the game tracker. I know I’m being dramatic, I know I’m overreacting, you may say it’s JUST basketball, but hey, aren’t I entitled to my emotional rollercoaster? And if it’s because my March Madness has become my March Sadness, who are you to judge?

I knew I should’ve studied abroad in the fall.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cotton headed ninny muggins...

I love a pop-culture comparison just as much as the next person. So, in an effort to explain to you all what this experience has been, I will put it in terms I hope you can all appreciate.

I hope you’ve seen the Christmas blockbuster Elf.

I borrowed the synopsis of Elf from and have inserted the changes I deem appropriate.

One Christmas Eve , On May 22, a long time ago, a small baby at a orphanage hospital was accidentally carried back to Santa’s workshop The Jennings’ home in the North Pole (East Central Minnesota, close enough). Though she was quickly taken under the wing of a surrogate father and mother and raised to be an elf American, it becomes clear that Buddy Chantel will never truly fit into the elf American world. What she needs is to find his real family explore Europe, specifically Andalucia. This holiday season winter semester, Buddy Chantel decides to find her true place in the world and sets off for New York City Seville, Spain to track down her roots hone her Spanish speaking skills, immerse herself in another culture and woo a Spanish boyfriend (only slightly kidding about that last one.) Although Buddy Chantel experiences a world she’s never knew existed only read about, she quickly learns that life in the big city is not all ice skating flamenco dancing and sugarplums sangria. Chantel seeks out her his real father , host mother, Chencha, a workaholic publisher of children’s an eccentric 65-year old woman that loves to wear purple and make dirty jokes at the dinner table.

Okay, so from there things change a bit, considering I don’t save Christmas, or at least, I haven’t done so yet.

But I really did kind of feel like Buddy the Elf when I got here. I was just sort of thrown into this environment where everything was completely new and different. And while I’m not wearing green spandex and a pointy hat, I still stick out.

But what has been even scarier than how strange and out of place I felt nearly two and a half months ago, is how comfortable I feel today.

Life here is finally normal. I’m used to my new bedroom and the garlic toast in the mornings. Listening to lecture and taking notes in Spanish is nothing new. And finally, I can handle when people stare at me and I even have a few PG-13 comebacks for when I’m feeling really courageous.

In fact, some of my American habits are starting to wear off. For example, I really have to think about the difference between they’re, their and there. And the other day I spent ten minutes trying to spell the word across, because I was too stubborn to consult a dictionary.

They say it takes six weeks for something to become a habit. Well, life here is both habitual and amazing. Because no matter how normal life here is for me, I still have those, “Dorothy, you’re not in Kansas anymore” moments.

And in those moments I think how crazy it is that I really
do live here. But I’ve taken everything in stride and even in those rare moments when I’ve wanted to pack my bags and head to the airport or find a row boat and take matters into my own hands, I smile because this is a tremendous experience and it’s all for the better that life isn’t always ice skating and sugar plums.

As Buddy would say, in those moments I smile and carry on because, “I just like to smile. Smiling is my favorite.”