Friday, September 6, 2013

Cultural Adjustment

These last few days have been a whirlwind of travel and lots of walking to get to know my new city.  I have learned so much in such a short amount of time already.  I'm getting used to hearing and seeing Spanish everywhere, so much so that I actually have to concentrate to make sure I write this all in English.  After meeting all these new people and getting acclimated to a new culture, there is one thing I have learned this week that I really want to share with you all.

I knew when I arrived in Spain that this semester was going to push me out of my comfort zone in more ways than one.  I have to rely on a language that I haven't spoken in four months (and have never spoken extensively outside of an academic setting).  I'm living in a new city that I have to learn to navigate on my own when I've never really had to do so outside of the Chicago suburbs and the Bloomington-Normal area.  Everywhere I go I find something else that's different from what I'm used to: people walking in the middle of the street until they see a car coming, shops closing down for hours during the middle of the day, children running around in the streets in the middle of the night.  The list goes on.  The one thing that is sticking with me, though, is something that one of our Student Services Directors told us yesterday.  He gave some great advice for adjusting to a new culture.  Of course, when he told us this it was all in Spanish, and for some reason I think that made it sound even better, but I'll do the best I can to translate.

We were sitting in the university's bar--yes, there is a bar INSIDE the university where students can get something to eat or drink and sit and chat between classes--and our friend Abraham from CIEE was giving us a talk about diversity.  He pointed to the glass of coke in front of him and said, "When I look here, I see this side of the glass, but if Brettyn [the girl sitting across from him] looks at it, she sees the other side.  It's still the same glass, right? We just see it different ways.  It is what it is, no matter how you look at it."  So basically he was pointing out to us that every culture appears different depending on your point of view.  Being American, I am seeing all of these cultural differences from an outsiders point of view, just as a Spaniard in the U.S. would see our culture.  Instead of focusing on which side of the glass we are seeing, we need to choose to see the glass as a whole and appreciate it for what it is.

Abraham also reminded us that we will always be American, no matter how hard we try to fit in to the Spanish culture.  But instead of seeing it as a handicap, we should embrace the fact that we are here, in this moment, and make the best of it.  So instead of trying to adapt and become more like the Spaniards, my goal this semester is to allow the people and the city of Sevilla to open my eyes to all aspects of the culture.  And although I can't adopt them as my own, I can respect and appreciate them just the same.  Living in Sevilla will not make me Spanish, but it will make me a better student, teacher, and a more culturally aware person overall.


  1. Fantastico! Genial! me encanta! Bienvenida a tu nueva casa Jessica :)

  2. Mucha suerte este semestre Jess. Yo también pasé tiempo en Sevilla (¡hace años!) y me encanta esa ciudad. ¡Nos vemos cuando regreses en invierno!
    Profe. Courtad