Pitt in Spain 4 – Expectations

Hola! I’m already over a quarter of the way through my study abroad, and it feels like I only left Pittsburgh a couple days ago! Time is passing incredibly quickly, but it’s also shocking how familiar my surroundings feel after just a few weeks. 

Today I’m going to tell you a little about my expectations for this trip, as well as how they’ve evolved as I’ve settled into my day-to-day routine in Alcalá. After getting accepted into the Pitt in Spain program, a combination of participation in informational meetings and independent research gave me a hazy idea of what living as a student in Spain over the summer would be like, but there was no way to fully “pre-visualize” it. Small details—the ubiquitousness of fresh-squeezed orange juice, the manic activity of the birds at five in the morning, the near-constant sunshine—continue to surprise me. Yesterday it rained for the second time over the course of my stay (both showers were as brief as they were moderate, nothing like Pittsburgh’s frequent summer storms), and the air smelled more strongly of petrichor than I can ever remember experiencing back home. Conversely, there are plenty of everyday things in the US that are difficult to find in Spain (exhibit A: peanut butter), and I do find myself missing home occasionally despite knowing that I’ll be sad when I finally have to board the plane back.

I knew before starting my classes at la Universidad de Alcalá that they would be entirely in Spanish, but I honestly wasn’t quite sure what that would be like for me as a student. The closest experience I’d had previously was in Spanish IV at Pitt (in practice more of a hybrid) and I was more than a little nervous my first day here, especially given how compressed the coursework is. While it definitely took me a couple sessions to get adjusted to the flow of things and sharpen my ear for Spanish, I’m happy to say that keeping up hasn’t been as difficult as I’d feared. If anything, I wish there were more opportunities to practice speaking in Spanish, as there’s a definite gap between my ability to understand others and to express myself. Of course, I still have lots of time to keep practicing both. 

I’ll end with a complete change of subject and a note about today’s picture. The enigmatic portrait above is a Roman sculpture of Marcus Arealius, which I took during my trip to el Museo Arqueológico Nacional. It’s wonderful how many incredible places there are to see within an easy train ride of my dorm!

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