Indiana University Overseas Study

Katie Bosler

I’ve been home from Barcelona, Spain for a little over a week now, and as predicted, I can’t believe it’s over.

No, I haven’t experienced major ‘re-culture shock’, or felt overwhelmingly sad to be home. But I do find myself thinking about this past semester all day, every day and it almost feels like it never even happened. The friends that I spent the most time with there are spread out across the states, with different summer plans and jobs. I no longer have anyone to relate to about my journeys and experiences, which has left me not talking about them very much at all. You can see why it feels like it almost was a dream.

Now, I’m experiencing an awkward stage to the start of summer—no one else is done with school yet, and a large amount of my friends are still across the pond, enjoying their last trips throughout Europe. Despite the short time home, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on my time in Barcelona and everything it taught me.

While its hard to piece together every little thing that I’ve learned and gained from being overseas, I find myself comparing the American culture that I’ve been thrown back into to what I experienced in Spain. There are many things I loved and learned from the Spaniards. I think we can all benefit from their unique outlook on life.

Here are some of my favorite lessons:

1. Experiment with tapas

In Spain, when you can’t quite decide on just one entrée for your lunch or dinner, there’s a solution—tapas. Tapas, the Spanish term for appetizers, are fun to order when you’re dining with a group and feeling indecisive about your meal. Ranging from eggs (tortilla), iberian ham, fish, bread with tomato sauce (pan con tomate), vegetables, fries (patatas braves), and more, you can try just about every category of food in one sitting. This makes the meal more exciting, you never know exactly what you’re going to end up with!  The portions are designed for everyone to share, so you’ll never have to worry about leaving hungry.


A standard tapas dish, a selection of meats including different hams and salami

2. Sit down and enjoy your meal

This took awhile for my friends and I to get used to when we first started dining out in Spain. We would order our food, receive it very quickly, and finish it in an alarmingly fast speed that is the norm in America. After a few days of waiting over forty minutes for our check after we finished our meals, we realized that sitting and chatting for an hour or more after eating was expected, and it would be odd if we didn’t do that. After awhile, we got very used to this custom and enjoyed elongating our meals with more chitchat.

3. Say “Hello” to everyone

While I view America as a very friendly country, I was pleasantly surprised at how welcome I felt everywhere I went in Barcelona and the rest of Spain. Whether you’re entering a clothing store, grocery, restaurant, or simply walking along the street, everyone says hello, regardless if you know them or not. By just by walking past someone, or coming within a few feet of them, it is customary to say, “Hola, buenas!” (hello) and acknowledge their presence. This would often make my day as I would be greeted by multiple strangers that I passed by.

4. Relax—There’s no rush

In Spain, no one is in a rush. This applies to almost every kind of situation that we find ourselves in here in the U.S. Spaniards simply like to take their time, and don’t believe it’s necessary to get all worked up with anxiety about being late (which makes life a heck of a lot easier). For example, waiting in long lines, waiting for the bill, or waiting a very long time for assignments to be returned are all very normal things there.

As a student, it was hard to understand how they could delay returning test scores and assignments for such long periods of time, but after awhile I enjoyed not having to spaz out about how I did on a test because I had a few weeks until I had to worry about it. You accept that things will get done when they get done, and its as simple as that!

5. Puente (long weekend)

The Spanish word ‘puente‘ means bridge, and it used to describe long weekends in Spain. Spain, and Europe in general, are notorious for having a large number of holidays and vacation days compared to what American companies offer. Spaniards will often have Thursdays, Fridays, or Mondays off of work. Also, during the summer, they will find themselves with several weeks in a row off for holiday, which is part of the reason they get to be such avid travelers. I had several puentes throughout my time in Spain, and I appreciated them very much as I was able to extend my weekend travels a day or two longer.

travel group

My travel buddies and I on a ‘puente’ weekend in Amsterdam!

6. Get outside of the house

This might have been one of my favorite Spanish customs. The Spaniards are constantly outside, spending time in their neighborhood parks, streets, or simply enjoying their meals outside. I loved coming home to my neighborhood, El Putxet, everyday after class around 6:00 p.m.  I knew I would get to see many families with their youngsters and dogs gathered around the park and streets, socializing with each other. This social scene took place before dinner, which wouldn’t be until 9 or 10 pm. It’s a perfect time to unwind from a busy day and catch up with your neighbors.

Barcelona beach

When the end of April hits, the beach becomes a prime destination for Spaniards in Barcelona

As I’m settling back home in Indiana, I hope that these lessons of Spanish life will always stay with me. I know my time overseas has changed the way I view the world and myself. I am a different person four months later. I now hope to focus more on the moment, say a hearty “hello” to passing strangers walking by and live life at a Spanish pace.

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