I love European fashion. There are fantastic stores near the Plaza Mayor. Unfortunately, my bank account doesn't share the love. Therefore, I try very hard to limit my shopping excursions, because if I go into one store...well, you all have read "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie..."
I like to think I know how to dress like Europeans, but most days I feel like a poser. I watch diligently to pick up on fashion trends. I now tie my scarves (which are sold everywhere and are a huge temptation for me) in the European style. Even the children wear great clothes and cute boots. I often see children of different ages dressed alike-it's adorable.
My biggest problem is forgetting to convert from euros to dollars. I see a dress for 20 euros and think, "Wow, only $20..." This makes for a rude awakening when I check my bank transactions later. I am getting better, though!
Luckily, the euro/dollar exchange rate is lowering. It was 1.57 (meaning one euro is 1.57 dollars) when I left the states, and now it is 1.35! This is great for foreigners, but reflects serious depression in some European countries. Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain are suffering the worst economic conditions.
I have found a solution to my morning hunger, caused by a lack of a "proper" breakfast. Unfortunately, it may be the death of me. Or at least my next fifty pounds. I discovered a lovely little "crossantería" very close to the Philology department. Chocolate croissant. Need I say more? How could it not be delicious: they have taken a pastry (laden with butter) and filled it with amazing chocolate. Genius. Dangerous. Delicious.
Today I bought coffee from a vending machine. For 40 centimos I enjoyed a small cup, half full of cafe con leche. Well, I pushed the button for cafe con leche, but I think my drink was just hot chocolate. Either way, it was a warm treat on a chilly day.
I worked this morning with a professor in the English department, helping her plan her lessons for next week. First, she asked me about my classes here at USAL and how they are going. Then, she asked me what I am studying in the United States. Like most people, she was surprised when I said Health Sciences (this translates better than Exercise Science). When I tried to qualify my semester abroad by saying I was also studying Spanish, she was more confounded. I get that response often. Spanish and Health Sciences? An odd combination, I know. However, she was excited because her she was going to discuss an article with her students about obesity problems in England. Apparently, the English are facing an issue similar to our situation in the United States. Processed, packaged foods are over taking natural, homemade meals. It is predicted that in the next 25 years one half of the population will be obese. That is significant. And very different than the rest of Europe.
One day, I was discussing my possible career paths with a Spanish friend, and he said I should certainly become a teacher, because I will always have a job. I explained that because of the health situation in the States, I will probably always have a job in the health sciences field, which is not the case in Spain, at least.
I have now been in Spain just over one month. Yet, I still have moments when I cannot believe I am here, studying, traveling, exploring, living. It is wonderful.