While the snow still remains on the mountains in the distance, as it may always do, the undeniably spring-like smell of freshly cut grass now permeates the green spaces of Oviedo. The weather is warming up a bit. The suggestion to sit outside at cafes is not routinely met with scowls and incredulity. All these and more are signs that yes indeed, time is in fact progressing, and we aren’t going to stay here forever.
Somehow, we have arrived at the halfway point. Despite what some students’ brains are telling them, no, we did not just step off the plane in Madrid yesterday. On the other hand, some are wondering how this lifetime that we’ve spent in Spain has only lasted two months.
For me, it feels like “New Year’s Eve: The Sequel.” Suddenly it feels appropriate to take stock of the experience so far, and to decide what’s been going well, what’s been left out, and what still needs to happen.
The experience hasn’t been the same for everybody. Outside of the few hours we share each weekday morning in class, no two days are the same. Some of us have built a veritable family here, and not just with our madres de Oviedo. The greater part of our group has opened up and embraced a circle of Ovetenses with whom some genuine friendships are forming. We go out with them. We watch fútbol. We’ve even got that one special place we’ve been to so frequently that we know the name of the bartender.
Others have been slowly turning their host families into real families. Some spend afternoons with “younger siblings”, or travel to nearby sites with their host mothers.
The common thread that runs through all the various schedules that rule our lives is the one thing that I least expected coming into the experience: routine.
Moments when I’m suddenly reminded of the fact that I don’t actually live in this city are those that make me think I must be doing something right. It’s a strange sort of bittersweet realization that as things become commonplace or mundane, the experience as a whole becomes more extraordinary. The fact that I can now forge my own shortcuts through the city, or that I can be invited without a second’s hesitation to my host brother’s birthday party, shows that in some way, I must be achieving the immersion that was the ultimate intent of the experience.
So does routine mean no adventure? Certainly not. In fact, it’s an opportunity to climb out of another comfort zone.
Knowing you’ve only got five months to do something right is an easy way to keep you on your toes. Now that we’ve hit that halfway milestone, it’s time to make sure we’re doing all that we hoped to do, and all that’s been newly added to our to-do lists.
Scrambling to make Semana Santa plans, to make sure everyone gets to hit their dreamed-of slice of Europe, is only a small part. If we really wanted to, we could fill our five months just exploring every inch of Asturias. Apart from the adventures and Euro-tripping, there’s plenty still untapped here in Oviedo. Perhaps the richest goldmine I can think of is right under our noses, right where we spend most of our mornings: The Casa de las Lenguas cafeteria.
If you want to know where to find the most international spot in all of Oviedo, swing by the Campus Milan cafe for a pincho and be pleasantly surprised. At any hour of the day, you can find students from all over the United States and Europe. The only problem is that there’s little mixing. More often than not, Temple students sit with Temple students, and the UniOvi students sit with the UniOvi students. The easiest way to meet more Spaniards is just a table away, but so far nobody has taken much advantage of the opportunity.
In the spirit of “New Year’s: The Sequel,” I propose a resolution. I’d like to see all of us, myself included, take the leap from our little island of English and venture out a bit. I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised at what we find.