TL5 Conversations by Robert Cowan

Hola amigos! It’s been 4 full weeks in beautiful Catalan, and I am really feeling at home and more comfortable in my host country. Because of the traveling I have been doing as of late, which includes Italy, Germany and Belgium, I have found there is nothing better than touching back down in Barcelona and feeling “at home”. I have begun to pick up the language much better, thanks to my incredible teacher, and have tried to actively speak it as much as possible. I knew little to no Spanish when I arrived, and now I feel comfortable ordering food and asking for directions. It’s such an amazing and accomplished feeling, and it has left me inspired to continue learning until I am fluent, even if it means learning on my own in the States! The streets are becoming more familiar, subway stops more routine, and the cultural differences have begun to seem normal. As opposed to comparing everything to America, I have begun to simply try and live as a local as much as possible. While I still have a long way to go, the progress I have seen in myself has been incredibly exciting!

The person I chose to have a conversation with was my Spanish teacher Christina. She has been such a hands on and passionate teacher that has taught me so much, which is impressive because I haven’t taken a Spanish class since I was 13! Like myself, Christina was once an outsider to Barcelona and Catalan as a whole. She is originally from an area near Madrid, and moved here after she had completely university. During this conversation, we were able to talk about the cultural differences between Spain and the United States, and then some of the even further cultural differences that come with living in Catalan as opposed to Spain. We first began with informality and formality in Spain and southern Europe, which is a popular difference. Everything from the language to social cues hangs on the situation and how formal it is. Spaniards dress up much more frequently, and typical casual clothing like sweat pants or gym shorts are extremely uncommon. Everyone’s style is emphasized, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t made a few shopping trips to fit in a bit more and dress up to the standard. People are also much more polite to store workers, waiters and waitresses, and elderly folks. The language changes, with pronouns and verbs being switched depending on who is being spoken to. This politeness doesn’t venture towards outwardly friendliness or an over the top attitude however, as many locals are much more reserved and quiet than Americans. This has made me realize how obnoxious or loud Americans can be in public, with one of my Spanish friends telling me “You can always tell when there is an American around. They are the easiest to identify.” Christina told me that this is many times true, as the Spanish people have a much more relaxed and mellow way about themselves. I’ve really tried to embrace these things, and as Henry Miller said, ““One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

The next thing we talked about was Catalan pride. As I discussed in my last blog, Catalan independence is a huge issue facing Spain at the moment. Catalan draws not only influences from Spain, but also from southern France and Italy, Christina told me. The language is different, heavy with dialect changes and bits of French, and the people are proud of it. The bull, the symbol of Spain, is nowhere to be seen in Barcelona, and issues of politics dominate the conversation in the city. Christina spoke about the importance of respecting Catalan as a separate cultural, unique it’s own ways, as opposed to grouping them together with Spain.

All of these differences have really made me think about my involvement at Quinnipiac, and what I want to do but was maybe a little to scared to do because of differences. Being a Fraternity man and an Orientation Leader has exposed me to many types of people, but for the most part people have similar interests. One area I have not been involved in or have not thought of joining would be a student media group, specifically WQAQ radio station. I have a huge passion for music, and I think it might be something I’d like to try and get involved in one I’m home in the states.

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