Photo Essay: Studying, Exploring, and Enjoying Life in Spain

Photo Essay: Studying, Exploring, and Enjoying Life in Spain

My name is Olivia Lisle, I’m sixteen years old, and I recently moved to Spain to study abroad for one semester of high school. Packing my bags and moving halfway across the world has definitely changed my life. I didn’t realize how different each life among a culture was until I moved to a new one.

This is my apartment! At first it was strange to see most everyone here lives in an apartment. Where I come from most people live in houses. I love my apartment life, though. It has just the perfect amount of space we need. I enjoy having neighbors right next door, and greeting new faces on the elevator. We are on the top floor, so our balcony view is incredible. I go out there every day and overlook the city.

Here in Spain we walk everywhere! Almost every kid walks to school, to stores, to afternoon activities, etc. I walk with my host sister and friends to and from school. I find this very different from the United States where all my friends and I drive at such a young age. Here they can’t drive as young as in the USA, and also everything is much closer so there is less need to drive. I have found I like this change because I get to enjoy the outdoors, and I notice my surroundings more.

The people seem more social because of walking as well. When my family and I walk somewhere, we always see people we know which results in short chats, or “hasta luego!” My city, Cáceres, is filled with preserved medieval castles and churches hundreds of years old, so I adore my daily walks through the cobblestone streets.

This is my high school. It is much smaller than mine in the USA. One huge difference is that here, 7-12 graders attend the same school, whereas in my school at home, it is only 10-12 graders. The way school is run here is different. Although I find it more difficult, I like these different customs more.

First, instead of the students changing classes, the teachers do. I am in the same class all day with mostly the same students. They don’t give us worksheets, assignments, or homework. The teacher comes in and teaches, and you listen and write notes. The teacher tells you the exam date, and you are responsible for studying what the teacher has taught to pass the exam. I took my first exam today. It was hard because I have only been here three weeks and don’t know all the material well. But, I am excited to study harder for my next one!

This is a picture of the first course of my lunch today. Lunch is the most important meal of the day in Spain. Breakfast is usually a piece of fruit or bread. Dinner is also small; usually a piece of meat and bread. But, lunch is huge!

Unlike in the United States, we don’t eat lunch at school. At eleven in the morning we have a break at school when we eat a snack (small sandwich, crackers, or fruit), and then at two in the afternoon school ends. That’s when we go home to have a several course lunch with our families.

Lunch varies everyday, but it can consist of a soup or pasta with meat, or a dish like tortilla de patatas. Bread is served with every meal and after each meal is dessert (fruit or yogurt). Following lunch is usually a siesta or free time. I find this custom more to my liking because I love getting to eat a big meal together, talk about our days, and then relax after.

This is my new family (minus my host dad who was taking the photo). I could not have gotten a better host family. They are loving, helpful, kind, and have made me feel like a part of the family. Spanish families are very close, so we spend a lot of time together. We eat every meal together, watch TV at night, they help me with my homework, and we go on walks in the city or park together.

We also spend a lot of time with extended family because they are very family orientated. On Sundays we eat lunch at my host mom’s parents’ house, and see both sides of the family during the week. My family loves showing me all Spain has to offer. On the weekends they take me to new places. We have been to Madrid, hiking trails in Cáceres (where this picture was taken), and this weekend we are going to Salamanca. It is such an incredible and eye-opening experience to live with a new family and see their culture.

This picture was taken on a Saturday out with my friends here. The moment I walked in school I was talked to by every student in my class. The teenagers here are very welcoming, kind, and social. We talk at school, hangout during our midday break, and they help me in class when I don’t understand. I was immediately invited out with them Saturday to do what teenagers do; go eat lunch, have afternoon coffee and tea at a cafe, and walk around the city.

Teenagers only hangout on the weekend because they study during the week. So, weekend outings are a big deal. EVERYONE goes out! This is very different than in the U.S. where my friends and I hang out throughout the the week, and drive to where we want to go. I look forward to school and the weekend when I get to spend time with my new friends!

This picture was taken in Madrid, Spain, last weekend. My family loves to travel, so each weekend we go somewhere new. Getting to see a new part of Spain makes me appreciate and fall in love with this country even more. Each city has beautiful sights and hundreds of years of history. I learn so much about Spain from each of my travels.

Last weekend we took a two-day trip to Madrid which I loved! It is such a large, exciting city filled with antique buildings, incredible food, and beautiful plazas. We shopped, they showed me museums of famous artists, rooftop views, and we ate the famous tortilla de patatas and papas bravas. We made fun memories there, and I can’t wait for Salamanca with them next weekend!


Does a study abroad adventure filled with delicious foods, new friends, and a second family sound exciting to you?

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