Language barriers are not the only struggle students who are studying abroad must face. Cultural differences are also a very real challenge, which I had not taken as seriously prior to my living in Spain. I had always heard that the Spanish eat dinner later and live a more relaxed lifestyle, but I did not expect this cultural aspect to affect so many parts of daily life.
I like to think I’m a fairly organized person. I like to have a general daily schedule and plan larger ventures ahead of time. Although meetings and events are equally as important here in Spain as they are in the United States, how people go about them is dramatically different. In the last three weeks, I’ve learned that being flexible is my best asset because people are late to meetings (I’m talking 30 minutes to an hour), schedules change daily and spontaneity seems to be a Spanish trait.
My most recent encounter with this challenge began last Tuesday. Although my internship in Barcelona is classified as journalistic, it isn’t what you might expect. I work for an organization called the Twist Club, which offers artists a space to create and mentors if they need help achieving their final projects. Twist Club partners with another organization called El Mirall, which fundraises some of its money through artistic performances. My job is to promote both organizations, but also act as more of a creative. I am expected to create an end-of-the-semester project using my journalistic skills that can be displayed in an artistic fashion. That’s not exactly in my current repertoire, but I’m expected to complete it.
So, when I was asked to prepare a dance solo on Tuesday for the following Saturday, I couldn’t say no. I couldn’t say no even though I hadn’t really performed a contemporary dance in three years, hadn’t really choreographed in four years and had lost the majority of my flexibility. But, despite the wrench this threw in my weekly schedule, I tried to see the positives: I would be able to dance freely in a studio again (something I hadn’t done in a very long time), I would get some exercise (also something I hadn’t done in a very long time) and I would have a very different cultural experience from many of my friends.
I was able to choreograph my 1:40 dance on Thursday, practice on Friday and perform on Saturday to benefit El Mirall. The environment in the room was one of the most supportive I had ever felt, despite the fact that more than 75 percent of the people watching me couldn’t even understand my native language. I had always heard that dance is universal, but now I can say it a little more confidently.
I’m so sore it’s been hard to walk the last few days, but I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time here in Barcelona.