Photo Essay 2016

Shawn Oliver

self portrait

Essay

Living as a Spaniard and Learning to “Make the Most of It”

After a very long day of traveling we finally made it to Spain. As we landed in Madrid, the flight attendant told us that we needed to be back to our seats, buckled in, and packed up, only she said all of it in Spanish. It hit me like a ton of bricks, the very surreal feeling that we were going to live in this foreign country thousands of miles from home for the next three weeks. I had never been out of the country before, and this would have made me a little nervous if I had been traveling by myself, but as I was with other Washburn students and Señora Tenny I felt safe and ready for the adventure ahead!

My goal was to develop my Spanish skills through classroom and real world experience, live and explore a different culture, have fun, but most importantly I hoped this trip would help me to grow as an individual. Thanks to Washburn I was able to afford this study abroad and I truly feel I accomplished all of my goals. Just in these three short weeks I noticed my Spanish improving. It was becoming much more fluid and I felt more comfortable speaking with my host family, teachers, and other locals. Since we lived with host families and went to school there, experiencing their culture was inevitable. Besides eating so late, I really enjoyed (and am a bit jealous of) their lifestyle. I noted that they are very relaxed people and I envy how greatly they value taking time to enjoy their lives. In a new place, absolutely everything was fun and interesting. Just walking through the streets admiring the beautiful architecture and listening to a funky band was exciting. Señora Tenny made sure to keep us busy with cultural outings such as visiting a guitar making factory and shopping from el Mercado Central that had everything from pig ears and jamon to peaches and pastries, needless to say there was never a dull moment!

The most important thing I took away from this experience is to make the most of it. Whether “it” is a just the day, a trip, or just life in general, Spaniards certainly make the most of life. They take it slow and make sure to step away from their work long enough to relax and enjoy time with friends and family. Neither of my host parents worked full time, and they were not wealthy, but they did have plenty of free time to go out and live life. This different culture and lifestyle opened my eyes to how Americans define success and priorities. Not only do I realize we spend too much of our lives working, we are also trapped in human nature’s curse of “always wanting more”. Spain gave me a new perspective and I cannot help but to focus on taking time for myself, enjoying life, and appreciating what I already have by making the most of it.

picture 1
A very entertaining band playing the cantina song from Star Wars in the middle of the square.

picture 2
The impressive and very old Aqueduct in Segovia that was built by the Romans in around 50 A.D.

picture 3
A snapshot from when we visited the Spanish guitar factory.

picture 4
A jamon shop that was in the giant market I mentioned. Spain is very proud of its jamon and you can find these legs in most meat shops and fine restaurants.

picture 5
Aerial view of the beautiful Alcazar Palace in Sevilla.