By Ashley Womboldt /// Staff Writer
“You know? The green boy who lives in the trash.”
How else would you describe Oscar the Grouch from “Sesame Street” to a Spanish professor who doesn’t speak English? Turns out his name is Óscar el Gruñón. That’s one of the many random things I’ve learned here in Spain that have challenged and improved my Spanish capabilities. In my three-hour, daily grammar class, my conversations have ranged from ridiculous discussions to serious ones on culture and politics, covering “Sesame Street” to the differences between the Spanish and U.S. education systems.
It’s very frustrating to feel like you can’t communicate exactly what you want to say, but it makes successful conversations even more exciting. I’ve had great talks about politics, culture and the reasons I miss Mexican food, all in Spanish, which still amazes me. I would not call myself fluent yet, because there are still plenty of other times when I feel like I have no idea what’s happening in a conversation. I did, however, teach my 70-year-old host mother how to use her new smartphone by google translating words like “swipe” and “charger.” Now every week I receive at least one Whatsapp message with a nine-minute long Spanish video about how great women are. I usually can’t make it through all nine minutes of the clip art and dramatic music, but at least she knows how to send videos.
When you Facebook stalk everyone abroad, you see the beautiful places people visit and all the crazy new experiences they’re having. Spain has its fair share of these photo ops: the Alhambra in Granada, Alicante’s Castillo and the cathedrals in every town—big and small. The pictures make the breathtaking experiences obvious, but the best parts of studying abroad don’t show up in those pictures.
Living in Spain has given me opportunities to push myself, to speak a language that makes me feel uncomfortable and at times a little foolish, and at the same time, to find people from all over the world who are all trying to do the same. We’ve all had the opportunity to realize how alienating it can feel to express half of an idea when the one in your head sounds so much better. We’ve also all discovered how great it feels when your professor understands what you mean by the green boy in the trash or your host mom understands your explanation of how to send a video. The laughs, the travel disasters and the miscommunications with your host family are the moments that really make up the experience of living abroad.