By Angela Arguson
I’m Angela, a sophomore Interactive Multimedia major, and it has been two weeks since I left New Jersey to spend the next four months studying in Spain. I am living with my host family in Alcalá de Henares, a town right outside of Madrid, and studying at the Instituto Franklin. So much has happened in the past fourteen days. Aside from the town of Alcalá, I have already visited Madrid and spent a long weekend in Valencia. It’s still hard for me to believe that I’m not at TCNJ anymore.
The transition into the Spanish culture took some time, and I feel like I am still adjusting. I’ve had to deal with the language barrier, the six-hour time difference, and homesickness. Because everything happens later here, I’m still getting used to stores closing during siesta in the afternoon and not having dinner until 10:30 at night.
However, the biggest change I’ve had to deal with is walking. I thought I did a lot of walking at TCNJ, but it’s nothing in comparison. Although the streets are full of cars and buses, walking is a main form of transportation in Alcalá. After making multiple trips from the apartment to the university in between classes, taking a 45 minute trip on foot to find the mall, or wandering through the streets of Madrid past midnight, I’ll never complain about having to walk to Bliss Hall again.
Although walking everywhere left my body sore during the first couple of days, it has taught me a lesson about the Spanish way of life. I’ve noticed that Spain’s overall atmosphere is very laid back. While I’m used to going at a faster pace and counting my minutes, people in Spain are in no hurry. I am a fast walker to begin with, but have found that I look like I’m sprinting compared to everyone else on the street.
One day, while taking my usual route to class, I decided to walk at a leisurely pace. Sure enough, I noticed so much more about my surroundings, from the little shops to the details in the buildings. From that, I’ve learned that it’s okay to take your time, whether it be on a walk to the plaza or sitting at a café to enjoy company and conversation. Coming from someone who is always pressed for time, living here has taught me to slow down. There’s no need to rush, and you need to just appreciate the moment.
I’m extremely grateful the opportunity to study in this beautiful country, and I am beyond excited for all the experiences to come. The days are already flying by and I want to enjoy ever minute. Now if only time itself would slow down.