Returning Home to a Different World: Candidate Blog
I have been back in the US for a week and it is so surreal to look back at my time in Spain. When I got off of the plane in Raleigh it felt like I was coming out of a dream. I was suddenly back in my hometown where I know exactly how to act and speak to people to completely fit in. After 3 months of being an obvious foreigner and having to think through my sentences before I said them out loud, it felt wrong to be able to get around a place so easily and naturally. I missed my friends, who are now thousands of miles away from me in Sevilla, California, Japan, Holland, England and Canada, among other places. I missed speaking Spanish and feeling proud of myself after every conversation that I had. Tonight, I am going to dinner with friends at 6:30 PM, and my initial reaction was, “That is way too early for dinner!” since I am now accustomed to eating at 10 PM. The other day I facetimed my friend Clara while I was cooking dinner at 6:00 PM and she was cooking dinner as well…at midnight.
Though there are a multitude of lifestyle differences between Sevilla and Chapel Hill, I wasn’t given much time to process the changes. Less than a day after my plane landed, I was completely moved into my house at college, and I am writing this blog in the library in between my classes. As one of my Sevilla roommates said, “You did the whole ‘hot tub now jump straight into freezing water tactic’”, and I could not describe it better.
Weekend trip to Rome in July with other Adelante candidates (left) and hanging out with a Sevillan friend in the city center (right).
Even though I was forced to adjust back to US culture quickly, it doesn’t feel the same as it did when I left. I am constantly noticing the cultural differences between the two countries, especially the differences around college life and food customs. At times I wish the US had some Spanish customs, and I remember many times when I wished that Spain had some US customs. I’ve thought about how I could create my ideal lifestyle if I could just pick and choose parts of each culture, but I know it is not that simple. Every small custom comes from or is dependent on many others. The culture of Spain is rooted in thousands of years of tradition and comes from its unique history. The culture of the US is also rooted in its own values and history. I have come to appreciate the stories of both of these amazing countries, but it is hard to accept that I can never live in both simultaneously.
I have not only noticed the differences in my environment, but also in my personality. Before I left, I often hesitated to express my opinion or ask for something that I needed from other people. I was a good communicator but assertiveness always left me feeling guilty or rude. It is hard to pinpoint exactly when I became more assertive during my time abroad, but I feel so much more confident navigating social situations without apologizing or losing faith in the validity of what I have to say. In Spain I had the same social interactions I have always had, but in a different language and culture. I think that when my only objective was to get my point across in a way that made sense, I stopped focusing so hard on not stepping on other people’s toes. Having to be so direct when I spoke Spanish in my internships made me realize that honesty and confidence are the most effective ways to communicate in a professional setting, especially with your supervisors.
My last night in Sevilla at a bar on Calle Betis (left) and El Parque del Retiro with Gabi and Aim, other Adelante candidates (right).
I know it is a cliché, but my experience abroad really did change my life. I learned so much that I would never have been able to learn in a classroom. Gaining real life experiences in a different culture and language challenged me in the best way possible. I learned that everyone is worth getting to know, even, (actually, especially) people that you seemingly have nothing to talk about with. I learned to stop caring about making small mistakes because nobody is going to remember them except for you. Finally, I learned to never sell myself short and that if a situation scares me then I have the perfect reason to dive headfirst into it.
2021 Medical Intern in Sevilla, Spain
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