I live here now, and despite what my empty blog implies, I have done so for the past two months. But here I am, ready to make up for my blog-neglect by mooshing 13 observations about my life here into one blog post. Enjoy!
Firstly, In Jaén, Spain…
Tapas are free! Tapas basically means any freshly prepared snack that you eat with your drink. Always different, always nommy, always free (with every drink). Most places keep track of how many drinks you have had, and number their tapas accordingly, so that you never get the same tapas twice.
Examples of what I have been given: Quail eggs, a piece of ham on bread, cheese platters with a side of potato chips, pickles, ham and bread, empanadas, chorizo, potato salad, fried seafood, and many, many types of indistinguishable cured meats.
Siestas are a thing! Now apparently this can be a little controversial, so I will say that this does not mean that every single Spanish woman man and child sleeps several hours during the day. But, every day at 1-2pm most shops close until 4-5pm (some stay closed until the next day). Younger kids here usually have a siesta during the day, and then stay awake until at least 10pm. At 10pm it is completely normal to see kids eating dinner/tapas out, or playing nearby while their parents dine.
Smells like waffles. Seriously, it smells like waffles. As a habitual breakfast skipper, leaving my classes to the sweet smell of waffles is torturous. This smell was inexplicable, until a few weeks ago when another hungry classmate pointed out the delicious wafts were coming from a waffle factory.
Is Ugly. Ignore my instagram photos, they are almost exclusively in the old part of town (where this snob lives). The university is really modern and thus mostly consists of square grey building and grey paving. Boring and blerg.
Is inefficient. I feel a little traitorous writing this point because the university has been really good to me. Mostly this point comes down to culture, there is definitely a ‘everything will get done, tomorrow’ (mañana, mañana) attitude about issues small and large. It was incredibly frustrating when I first arrived, trying to figure out classes and enrollment when people kept telling me ‘don’t worry, just figure it out tomorrow’ (after classes had begun).
Is Flexible. After a while my naturally lazy nature has sunk right in and I am totally at home with getting things done, tomorrow. And by that I mean that I have become accustomed to the flexible (if a little inefficient) attitude, and I can see both the pros and cons of both approaches.
Has some amazing teachers. See how I ended it on a good one so I don’t look like an asshole? Yeah. But this is true. It took me a very long time to figure out my classes, but when I finally did I have landed myself some amazing, dedicated teachers. My classes are all in Spanish, but they are aimed at students with Spanish a a second language. This means that they take the time to make sure we all understand, but also always try to specifically engage us in topics and discussions.
Being an Exchange Student in Spain…
Is Erasmus.Well, not really. Erasmus is a program organised by the European Union and member governments to encourage travel between European countries. 90% of the students here are travelling on this program (after being elected and paid a grant through their). Having said that, most people here just use ‘Erasmus’ as synonymous with ‘Exchange Student’, so I usually just use it that way too (sneakily).
Is membership to a unique culture.
I adore being a fake- Erasmus student, and a large part of that is because of the unique culture that comes with it. Generally exchange students are all equal parts nervous and excited, and this formula somehow makes us a near homogenous group of insta-friends (I haven’t quite got my head around the science yet). Fast-forwarding the natural friendship growth means that in a just two months I already feel like I have developed a group of close friends, good friends and outer acquaintances.
Makes travelling cheap (and fun!).
Several different for-profit and non-profiting organisations arrange bulk fares for trips with students. This makes traveling cheap and fun, and provides a great opportunity for bonding with your fellow exchange students.
Doing this all with my husband and children is:
By far the best bit.
It is so much fun being here with them, and sharing it all from four unique perspectives. I love watching Simon learn Spanish and make new friends. I adore how excited Hazel gets about the castles we see and the ancient places we go. I love that Doodie is an adventurous foodie.
I am really am having my cake and eating it too and it tastes just as fantastic as I imagined.