I always thought that if I went to Africa, that I would be riding an elephant. But riding a camel twice in one day comes in at a close second. I had the privilege to take a weekend trip to the beautiful country of Morocco while studying abroad in Spain. Our group went to four cities: Chefchaouen, Tangier, Tetouan, and Asilah.
Each city was very unique, and all extremely culturally different from both Spain and the United States. Even though the towns were different from each other, they also had similarities. They all were very white with a splash of blue on almost every wall and door, and all had a small town feeling, even though they are some of the largest cities in Morocco. The reasoning behind the blue walls is that the blue cools down the city and keeps the citizen cool throughout the day. The people of each of these cities repaint the walls four times every single year. I found this very interesting, since there is nowhere like this in the United States, and that the southern part of Spain receives very much sunlight, and most of the cities in Spain are full of color. It is amazing that a 45 minute ferry ride over the Straight of Gibraltar separates two completely different cultures. Although my experience in Morocco was unforgettable and unimaginably awesome, I still missed the place I now call home.
Alicante, Spain is one of the most amazing cities I have ever had the chance to immerse myself in. The people are unique in ways that are almost indescribable; the city itself is beautiful and full of life and energy. The Mediterranean Sea is so majestic, and I have the privilege of listening to its waves crash onto the shore the entire year, while also enjoying my weekly visits to the beach—still 80+ degrees here. Sorry Gusties, but I am not missing that crisp wind hitting my face walking to class. My life has never felt so relaxed. The horns, traffic, and constant construction that fill New York is about as opposite as it can be here. The majority of people walk to their destinations and frequently at very slow speeds. Everyone here is friends with one another, and you can see the smiles of the cute Spanish women when they run into a friend randomly on the sidewalk. No one is in a hurry.
I think my favorite part of the day is the time between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m., when the city shuts down, and everyone has lunch and takes a nap. The city goes quiet, everyone leaves work for these three hours, and at the end of the break, everyone is replenished and happy. It really is a cool experience to be a part of, and something I will definitely miss when I return back home in December.
When someone told me that I would have an experience of a life time while studying abroad, I did not fully comprehend what that meant. I kept asking myself, how would I have a great time when I do not even know the people I will be with? How will I have a great experience in a city so foreign and unknown? Let me be the first to say, that studying abroad has definitely been an experience of a lifetime, and I was proven wrong in so many ways.
I am studying abroad with a group of about 24 people in my specific program. We all bonded extremely fast and instantly became one big family. We spend many days and nights together, whether it’s on a planned school trip, going to the bars to watch a soccer game, or even just going to the beach to have a relaxing day. I made so many new friends that will always understand my experience. They will be able to relate to every emotion I have, and they definitely have become a support network.
Not only do I get to spend my weeks in the beautiful city of Alicante, but I also get to take advantage of the surrounding countries. I have dedicated most of my weekends to weekend vacations, whether that means another city in Spain, or another country. Having the opportunity to travel has really opened my eyes and definitely has changed me. I have to switch cultural life styles, constantly communicate with gestures, or very poor knowledge of another language, and I have to add more clothing to my wardrobe as I travel north (the temperatures are a good 20 degrees lower than in Alicante.)
I think that you could say my life here in Alicante, Spain is like riding a camel. There will always be some humps in my trip, some humps that make my trip amazing and so much more exciting, and some humps that slow me down for a little bit. Riding a camel is not the most comfortable animal to ride on, but once you get used to how the camel walks and swings its hips, it is definitely easier to enjoy, and you can relax and take it all in.