Arrival in a New Country, New Culture, and New Lifestyle

October 20, 2017

This post comes to us from Anna Martin from the University of Denver. Anna is an International Studies & Spanish Major currently studying in Cadiz, Spain.

The first two weeks of intensive Spanish class here in Cadiz are complete, and to celebrate, we are heading to the beach! My time in Spain has been a whirlwind, with each day of the week blurring together and nights turning to mornings faster than they should. Here’s a quick recap of what I have learned, and much of what I hope to learn, while in Spain.

I arrived in Madrid and was greeted with besos (kisses) by our API Program Director, Vicky, and by six nervous “hola’s” from the other students in the Cadiz program. Jumping in with both feet, the seven of us rapidly spiraled into a new world—one where Spanish filled the air and tapas filled our bellies.

Our time in Madrid was short but complete with sightseeing, trying new foods, and getting a taste for the Spaniard lifestyle. I learned to bring snacks from the complimentary breakfast at our hotel, quickly realizing that eating lunch between 2 to 3pm requires some sort of acquired ‘food stamina’. Further, my bedtime was automatically pushed back by several hours, as eating dinner at 10pm is a quintessential aspect of the Spanish culture.

View overlooking Cadiz

To travel to Cadiz, we took a train from Madrid. After dragging my over-packed bags around the city, we finally arrived at the train station for our 4:00pm train. Our train ride was scheduled to take nearly four hours, which would be plenty of time to get a little napping in and mentally prepare to meet my new host family! Around an hour before we arrived in Cadiz, I made a trip to the train car offering food services so I could grab a café con leche to help wake me up. The barista made a SMALL cup of coffee—very different from our enormous cup sizes in the US—and handed it to me. I graciously took the coffee but wanted a lid so that I could travel back to my seat. Not knowing how to say ‘lid” in Spanish, I decided to put a creative spin on my question, asking the barista for a sombrero para mi café (hat for my coffee). Laughing, she told me the correct term was la tapa (the lid), and handed me one.

La Caleta Beach in Cadiz

Word and translation debacles such as this have been central to my experience in Cadiz so far. My host family can attest to this, as sometimes I say good morning at night, purely by mistake, but nonetheless, humorous to them. The past two weeks of Spanish class have greatly helped to improve my Spanish. I have enjoyed being in Spanish class with other international students (most of them German), with the common language we share being Spanish. Because we are all learning to be fluent in Spanish, any apprehensions or doubts I have with my speaking and listening abilities seem to vanish when I’m conversing with the other students.

So far in Spain, my go-to phrases are “Puedes hablar más lento, por favor?” (Can you speak slower, please?) and “Repite, por favor” (Repeat, please), but I am confident that these phrases will soon transform to those of conversation and expression.

I have learned new words, how to find a middle ground when conversing with new people, ways to adapt to a new culture—and have experienced many of the challenges that accompany these lessons. I hope to learn to be more confident in my Spanish abilities, to grow to appreciate all aspects of a culture (even the fried fish!) and to know a new part of myself.


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