Being in a new environment is full of mixed emotions. I remember that during my first days in Spain, I felt grateful and thrilled about being here, but I also felt overwhelmed. I did not feel confident enough to actively start exploring the culture or plan something for my friends and I to try. However, as time passes by, I feel like I am becoming more confident about going out and immersing myself in the culture. This can take form in several ways. It can be something as simple as going out for tapas (snacks) or even planning a visit to another city. So far I have done both.
The first time my friends and I decided to go out for a “tapas night”, we worked together to come up with a list of several options we might want to try. Since some of my friends have dietary restrictions, we had to make sure that we found places that would have options available for them. After all, a big component of going out for tapas is to just relax and talk with your friends, so it would not feel right for someone to be excluded. Even though we researched the places we had on our list, we still made sure to ask in person about the food restrictions. After checking out the places we had on our list, we decided to try a new place that was not in the list, but that we heard good reviews about. We struggled a little to find the location of this tapas place, since we only knew the name of it, but by working together we finally managed to find it. One of my friends and I each had our gps pulled up to make sure we were leading the rest of the group to the right place. (When we go looking for new places, we usually like having two people working on directions to double-check that we are on the right track, after all two pairs of eyes are better than one!) Once we got there we made sure that everyone would be able to enjoy the tapas, and thankfully, we all could. We asked the waiter for any recommendations and I am happy to say that his recommendations were excellent.
While going out for a tapas night is a good way of immersing myself in the culture, visiting another city is also another way to do so. It is very exciting to visit a new city, but it does require a lot of planning. When my friends and I decided to take a small trip to Madrid, we decided that it would be best if we all worked together to plan it. We started by individually researching places we wanted to visit, housing (rules, their prices and distance to the places we wanted to visit), and bus tickets (price and time). Once we had an idea, we would write it down in a shared google document. We used the internet for research, but we also asked our professors and other students for any recommendations they had. After completing the individual research, it was time for the collaboration part. We decided to meet at a coffee shop to discuss and explore all of our options. We all had our laptops out, and looked over the different areas of the trip: transportation, places to visit, housing and food. Since we all had some ideas, the “meeting” (we call them our trip meetings) went very smoothly. We were able to figure everything out and visit Madrid!