Shelby and I are cousins and 9 days apart. We were destined to be great (best) friends. We experienced all of our awkward stages of life together and somewhere along the way discovered a passion for travel. I don’t think either of us had seen much of the world (excluding the interstate drive between KS and NE) until college. Our Sophomore year of college I arranged a trip for us to visit a friend in Alaska. That was a huge deal. And now I’m wondering how we convinced our parents to let us visit the last frontier. We had little to no money yet managed to live off a box of free bagels for a week and sleep on floors. The following year we signed up for a semester in Spain. It was quite literally a transforming and fascinating new world. Our heads were spinning (and hurting) learning a new language, eating our fill of paella, and wondering the streets of Sevilla. Shelby sees the good in everyone and everything. She takes chances and seizes opportunities. She has helped me to explore and experience life. Whether it be driving into flying turkeys on Kansas dirt roads, or wandering to the edge of Portugal to see the setting sun, I am incredibly grateful for the laughter and joy that she brings to my life.
Why did you move to the country you’re in?
I am currently living in the U.S. but I moved to Spain 4 years ago after graduating from College because I was looking for “something”. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but I loved Spain so much when I went there in 2004 with Jenna (ME!), and I had been looking for a way to go back ever since. I initially went back as an Au Pair which didn’t work out (but she did meet David Beckham!).
I would say I truly started living in Spain in the fall of 2007, when I returned with a grant from “North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain”. I was placed in Córdoba, Spain and that is where we will begin:)
I moved to Spain because it is a wonderful country and I think Spanish is a beautiful language. I also really wanted to improve my Spanish and live abroad for a while and experience the culture. Plus, Europe Rocks!
Unique differences between Spain and the U.S.?
The general feeling you get when you are in Spain, especially in the south of Spain, is laid back and carefree. Although there is a national unemployment rate of 20.4% and most people my age will never be able to afford a home in their lifetime, everyone seems happy. Like Aussies (see LeShell’s story), Spanish people work to live instead of live to work like most Americans. In Spain, the party don’t stop till six in the mornin’. When Americans stop for the night, Spaniards are just getting started.
Another difference is that a road trip lasting more than 2 hours is “far” in Spain, in the U.S. it’s a day trip! People in Spain live with fewer possessions but seem more content than the American consumer society. Spain is such a small country, so it is so easy to travel around, whereas in the U.S., it is massive! Spain is like the mid-west in comparison to size, not even!
What is the weirdest thing that has happened to you?
I went to make photocopies one day, and I met the love of my life.
The weirdest thing since being back in the U.S. is that people believe that I have an accent now. It was officially decided that, I do not have an accent. I just speak with Spanish intonation sometimes. J
Funny cultural nuances about Spanish life?
In Spain mid-day is 2:00pm. Lunch is served between 2:00pm-3:30pm and dinner is around 9pm. Spaniards greet people with two kisses on the cheeks, left then right. The typical mid-day drink is a beer! Most people, even the little old ladies will have a “caña” before lunch. A “caña” is a little 8oz. glass of ice-cold beer that usually comes with the free tapa. Try ordering an 8oz. glass of beer in the States!!! I think the smallest I’ve seen is a half-pint.
What don’t you like about Spain?
I hate that customer service is terribly. No matter where you go, restaurants, clothing shops, supermarkets, the workers are not expected to treat you nicely. Some do, but the majority are there to work, and nothing else. But…what do you expect??? There are NO TIPS or commission in Spain!
What do you miss?
I miss how easy it is to meet up with friends for a coffee or a drink. Everything is within walking or biking distance, so I can get so much more done in one day. I miss going to the beach, winter, spring, summer, and fall! I miss my social life. I miss all my flat mates and my close friends in Spain and France. Above all, I miss my sweetie pie!!!
Favorite food/drink in Spain?
Red wine by the glass, 2 euros! Arroz Cordobez every Saturday afternoon at the Marquez Lopez residence (Rafa’s house). Every weekend his family gets together for lunch and his parents make “arroz cordobez” similar to paella.
What has changed in your routine since moving back to the states?
By moving back to the U.S., I became unemployed, which has been very hard. I’m still job searching and get frustrated every week and have a breakdown, but I always get through it thanks to my family support system. I get to spend more time with my sister Bailey and her fiancé here in K.C. and my family is now only a short distance away, so that has been great to see them more frequently. I drive all the time! I never take the city bus, which I did quite frequently in Spain. I rarely stay up till dawn.
What do you love about the Spanish people?
I love how friendly Spanish people are. They have a great sense of humor, and an extraordinary desire to live life to its fullest.
What is easier in your new country?
I’m not sure how to answer this one. What is easier in the U.S. or Spain? I would say that in Spain, it’s easier to live financially, however this is coming from someone that was living there temporarily and renting. It was easier to buy health insurance in Spain. I even had the private insurance because I wasn’t a citizen. It was more affordable and I got great service! If you are a citizen of Spain, it’s FREE, which is a wonderful thing! I didn’t have to have a car, which was so much easier on me. Cars are expensive in the U.S., and even more if you can’t go through an automatic car wash correctly! It is easier to get around the city in Cordoba. In the U.S., it’s easier to find what you need at a great price! Thank heavens for Target and TJ Max!!! 😉 Obviously, it’s easy to hang out with family. I love going home to Hillsboro for the weekend, and weekend trips to Kansas City. My parents and Noah have come a few times, and Sam and Jenna!!! Who’s next???
What is harder about living abroad?
It was so hard to live so far from my family and friends while I was in Spain. Sometimes I just needed a hug from my Mom and I couldn’t. That was hard. It’s easy to make friends in Spain, but it’s hard to find a true best friend, because it takes time to build relationships. After being there for three years, I came back to the U.S. having made a few amazing friends in Spain, that I know will be there for me for the rest of my life. I can’t imagine life without them.
How does the country/culture make you feel?
Spain makes me feel alive! I feel special and different than everyone else. In Spain, I will always be unique because I am an American, and I love that.
How has it changed your life/perspective?
I have different perspectives on life, the world, and my culture. By being fully immersed, I understand a different culture and how it works. It made me realize that there are many ways of doing one thing and no one way is correct or incorrect, just different. I became independent. I couldn’t rely on my Mom and Brad to do things for me, I had to go out and find if for myself.
How do you relax in Spain?
The best way to relax is to go to the beach. The air is different, crisp, and clean. It is amazing to look out into the ocean, and just absorb it.
How has living abroad made you a better person: I gained maturity and insight on my life while living in Spain. I gained new experiences and friendships that I would otherwise never have had. However, I think that my experience coming back to the U.S. has really changed my life on a personal note more than anything. Now, I am just like everyone else, an American. I have no job, no U.S. work experience, I’m fighting with the rest of the country to find a job and make ends meet. I have done a lot of self-realization, who I am and what I want out of life. My personal relationship with God has deepened since I’ve been back. Being surrounded by other Christians has made me realize how important it is to have Christian fellowship in my life. Life is great with friends and family, but without God…I’m not content. I realize how easy it is to slip into a worldly lifestyle, and if I don’t seek God out, wherever I am, I will be forever unhappy. I miss Spain, but I know that I was supposed to come back to the U.S. for this reason. Wherever I live, I know that God will be present in my life.
How long do you want to stay there: Here or there…? Good question!
Where do you want to travel or move next: I want to continue to travel for the rest of my life. I love experiencing new cultures and ways of life. I want to travel to South America next. I have good friends from Colombia that I would love to travel with to Columbia. Elena and I have plans for a month (or two or three) excursion. I want to visit Japan as well. I have friends and old roommates that are there now, and I want to visit them and experience their culture. I would love to move back to Spain, I could see myself living there for the rest of my life. Time will tell.