1. Embrace the Siesta
Before arriving in Spain, I had heard rumors of a chunk of time in the afternoon when the town goes quiet and people do nothing more than eat and rest. This incredible addition to daily life is called a siesta. To my immense satisfaction, I learned the truth of siestas after only a few days in this new country: they’re real. And they’re amazing. That being said, the adventurer within me often fights against the concept of abandoning consciousness while the sun is still shining and the notion of completely disengaging from the wonder of Valencia for a few hours. The college student within me couldn’t ask for a better way to spend an afternoon. After constant battle and deliberation, I took my first siesta on my fourth day abroad. Immediately, I knew that Spain was on to something. Although the mid-afternoon nap may feel like a “waste of time,” it is actually a catalyst for future activity. After a siesta, I can confidently embrace my day with a clearer head, wider eyes, and a new-found tenacity to discover and explore all Spain has to offer.
2. Eat the Pig Ear
This is not a metaphor. In Spain, pig ear is a common dish found in nearly every tapas bar. And no matter how strange it smells or how much it jiggles on the plate, you have to close your eyes and try it and swallow the uncomfortably crunchy taste of cultural engagement and horizon broadening. Granted not all people will be able to handle this level of “immersion.” I myself had a difficult time getting down certain dishes, especially when it came to blood pudding and lamb intestines; however, I didn’t come abroad to be comfortable and I didn’t travel miles from home to experience the same lifestyle I had before. I came not as an onlooker but as a participant, fully prepared to shatter my comfort zone and embrace a new guidebook of cultural norms. Certain adventures are terrifying, others are disgusting, and some are wonderful, but no matter what adjective properly describes them, they are all an abandonment of comfortable living and an acceptance of open minded living. And that’s the whole point of studying abroad.