Orientations is over

Posted on September 17th, 2012 by

The entire first week of this program has been quite enjoyable. It was orientation in CIEE and basically for me it was just a week long vacation. We spent the days touring the city and the nights going to bars and clubs. Wash, rinse, repeat, all with other CIEE group members, all the time. After the orientation however, most of the events were scheduled towards the end of the week and I’ve finally had a few days to be on my own and see the neighborhood I live in. While many of my friends whined about classes towards the end I thought it was a breath of fresh air. I didn’t know that the first week of the program would be touring. It felt odd to walk the streets speaking English with groups of 10 to 15 other Americans. I was for all intensive purposes a tourist. Alone walking the streets wearing what I hoped was more European style clothing, I only American and not a tourist. Being a tourist for a week reminded me that I won’t be able to escape my identity as an American. But if you can put on the American costume, then you can put on the Spanish one and soon no one will see you as different. When in Rome act as the Romans do. It’s been my philosophy since I came here. It truly works. But naturally, my only regret is that my accent won’t disappear that quickly.
After a week of doing things solo, I think it has begun to hit me that I’m living in Sevilla. Initially I felt like I was experimenting with an intensive Spanish class, everyone speaks the language but I had an English crutch with my friends. Alone I’m remembering differences that seem quite similar. Generally people here do the same things as any person from another country. We get hungry, we eat. We get tired, we want to have fun, we want to compete, to be lazy. There is a firmly established system here that I as a foreigner am only beginning to understand. It is the Spanish way of life, the way of life for millions. The more things change the more things stay the same. This is common knowledge to any person who leaves their home even to live in their neighbor’s home across the street. Human being’s have natural needs and you can guarantee that we will find a way. We always find a way to survive.
What has been intriguing me more is how I myself am adapting here. So far I absolutely love my stay here. There are little things that I encounter every so often that I wish were more“American” but I usually just smile at the difference. But my vacation here is over. I’m starting to live here and the things that I’ve brushed aside so far are going to be things that I have to live with. I’m ready for having to live with the changes but I’m curious as to when my smiles will turn into grimaces. I’m wary of my adaption, because I do remember the first time I experienced culture shock. It was when I moved from Texas to Minnesota for college and it hit me like a pile bricks. For those who don’t know culture shock is a series of experiences that people go through when transitioning to another way of life. There are four phases: The Honeymoon phase, The Negotiation Phase, The Adjustment Phase, The Mastery Phase. I’m no expert on the topic, and honestly I pulled that phases stuff straight from a Wikipedia page, but I do know that it is real. It happened to me once so I’m looking out the second time around. I went through lots of phases my first time with culture shock and I will say that adjusting can be very difficult when going someplace strange. As of this writing, Spain is new and fascinating and different and I absolutely love it but I’m also wary that this feeling won’t last forever. I am after all in the Honey-moon phase.


One Comment

  1. Jill, CICE says:

    Michael, you are so prepared and ready to take on this experience! i encourage you to continue boldy and to keep your langauge and immersion goals ahead of you…