Finding A New “Normal” In Spain

I began planning a semester abroad during the fall of my freshman year. I coordinated with advisers for both of my majors, on-campus organizations and housing to make sure nothing was going to affect my ability to get to Spain. I’ve been talking about this semester for over a year- telling friends and family, planning classes around it, and preparing for the experience to come. My normal has been “I’m going to Spain!”, and now here I am, sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Madrid.

Instead of talking and thinking about my trip, I am (finally) experiencing it. So now what?

It’s been a whirlwind couple of days- the travel, time adjustment, new friends & classmates and immediate immersion into the Spanish language and culture have been overwhelming and exciting. API gave us information about the stages of culture shock, and I feel like I’ve experienced almost all of them during the first 48 hours. Tonight as I sit and think about all that’s happened and how much I’ve already learned in such a short period of time (before I’ve even reached my host city!), I realize that my days of being over-planned and needing to know everything all the time are over for the semester. I have left my comfort zone and am really ready to immerse myself in this new world around me.

This week, my “normal” is traveling through different cities between Madrid and Sevilla as we approach our host city for the semester. Different schedules, activities and time to sleep will be the norm, and a positive attitude and ability to adapt will make the time adjustment and excursions much more enjoyable.

I will be flexible, quick-to-react and confident in whatever comes my way, whether it’s as simple as speaking only Spanish with American friends or more extreme like traveling independently. Study abroad is all about discovering a new culture and discovering yourself. I’m ready to let go and see what’s in store.

Establishing a new routine with my host family will be the next challenge on the path for a new daily life… wish me luck! (buena suerte!)

Sarah Dougherty is a student at the University of Alabama and an official API Student Blogger. Sarah is studying abroad with API in Seville, Spain.

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