Study abroad teaches life lessons


    How would a TCU student and campus resident define a customary school day? He or she would wake up early for class, take a warm shower, make trips from Scharbauer to Smith to Moudy and everywhere in-between, meet friends for lunch at the BLUU, work out at the Rec Center, make plans for dinner and study or go out, depending on the day of the week.

    My study abroad experience through the TCU in Seville Program bears witness to the breakneck, stock car race-like feeling of quickly adapting to a new way of life.

    While Spain has a modern, progressive system of government and social support, the sense of equality within its society is not necessarily the same. Among more traditional family environments, such as the one with which I live, there are clearly defined social roles.

    The number of times my homestay señora has pressured, cajoled or otherwise exercised authority is too high to count. Yet she thinks  it is nothing  beyond the normal and expected relationship between a family elder and a dependent.

    More challenging than being responsive to authority and honesty is the Spanish sense of time and socialization. Days begin far later, interrupt for a several-hour siesta in the afternoon and resume again late into the night. Lunch at 2:00 PM and dinner at 9:00 PM both seem too early after three weeks in the country. Designated nap times during siesta hearken back to kindergarten.

    American college students with bulging planners and activities out their ears will find little of the sort in Spain. Only rarely do Spaniards go anywhere hurriedly, preferring walks, parks and lingering in sidewalk cafes with friends. Having a specific purpose for being in a room or other location is much less important than simply being there. Times are flexible, and the favorite “let’s get lunch or coffee sometime” really means “nice talking to you today.” The collectivist, high context culture unsettles the organized life of an independent individualist.

    Conservation as only dreamed of by American environmentalists truly exists in Spain. Without going to great lengths to justify smaller carbon footprints, Spaniards simply turn lights off, use hardly any water and rarely drive cars even with space to park and distance to travel. Air conditioners are also hard to come by, which is rough in a slow-boiling Mediterranean summer.

    The Texan and college culture in which all Horned Frogs have a stake is proud and distinctive. Yet across the Atlantic, that culture from which I came stood on its head and shook out all understanding of what it means to follow norms and customs.

    All TCU students ought to reflect on the differences in their way of living, be thankful for what they experience day-to-day, and appreciate more fully what they do not. This is a true study abroad lesson.

    Pearce Edwards is a junior political science and history double major from Albuquerque, New Mexico.