From Abroad: Cathedrals and closed stores

A Lafayette student recounts her time living and traveling in Spain

By Samantha Praman-Linton ‘16

Contributing Writer

As I approach my last few weeks of my semester in Madrid, I spend a lot of time reflecting on the past three months and my experiences. I would be lying if I said the transition to life in Spain and to my program was not hard at the beginning. I have been completely taken out of my comfort zone. Adjusting has been a process, but being in a country filled with such an interesting and rich history has helped me to appreciate this opportunity.

Before coming to Spain, I was well aware of the differences between Spanish and American culture, but I had no idea how affected I would be by the changes. Late Spanish dinners are a real thing and so is the practice of siestas, the period in the day in which many businesses shut their doors so workers can eat long lunches and relax before opening again. I was surprised to see that so many stores close for siesta in Madrid considering it is the capital city, but I eventually learned not to expect to be able to go to many stores outside of the main city center between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. and that most places would be completely closed on Sundays. It may not be surprising, then, that my host mother makes dinner at 9:30 p.m. every night, and when I go to Spanish restaurants for dinner before 8 p.m. they are typically empty.

Despite cultural differences and my difficulties transitioning to life in a new country away from Lafayette, friends and family, Spain’s unique beauty and history has made this semester worth the initial struggle. I did a traveling seminar in the first weeks of the semester to the Spanish cities of Cordoba, Granada and Seville as well as the Portuguese capital, Lisbon. We visited incredible historical sites and learned about the history of the country we would be calling home for the next four months.

In Cordoba, I visited the Mezquita-Catedral, a symbol of years of tension and conflict between Muslim and Christian groups on the Iberian Peninsula. As the oldest preserved mosque in Europe, it’s also unique in that you can find a cathedral in the middle of it. In Granada, I visited the famous palace and fortress La Alhambra. In Seville, I saw the world’s largest gothic cathedral. Every destination during these first two weeks quelled any of my doubts about choosing to study abroad in Spain. Later trips in Spain to Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial, Barcelona and Valencia have contributed to my appreciation of the country and made me so glad to call this country my home for the semester.

Like most other students at Lafayette who study abroad, I am part of a partner program, meaning I am with students from different schools and not with any Lafayette faculty members. The semester has been both exciting and daunting. I am a visiting student in a larger university’s program of 140 students. There are about 40 visiting students in this program, so it was at first difficult being in the program’s minority. It seemed as if most of the students already knew each other and this made the adjustment a little more difficult than expected. I eventually made some great friends who have helped make the semester a great one. I have about three more weeks here in Spain and, although I eagerly await returning back to the U.S., I plan on continuing to take in all that this country has to offer.