Spain, at first, was a shock. We had just gotten off a 6.5 hour flight and were suddenly being whisked away onto a coach bus with professors who we didn’t know but who were oddly peppy and excited to see us. The next 5 hours were filled with confusion, as the bus rode on to our first destination, Valencia. I remember looking out the window thinking, “um, this is Spain?” The terrain was oddly desert like and as we rode on for hours and hours there seemed to be no people, or really anything at all in sight. Just desert. This did NOT look like the country on the SU Abroad brochures. I knew from the start that the Spain that existed in my mind and the actual Spain would be different, but I didn’t expect it to be THIS different! I decided to close my eyes and wait until we arrived in the city.
But alas, the strangeness only continued, this time in the form of a rest stop. We stopped a few hours in and all of us weary, confused American students unloaded the bus and squeezed into a building with a sign on it that read “hotel”. I was expecting to go in and find a McDonalds, maybe a Subway, but instead I walked into a different world. It was a small cafe, with a bar, ham legs hanging from behind and rapid-fire Spanish filling the air. All 50 of us just stood there like lost sheep, staring at the counter wondering how exactly we get the food from behind the counter into our hands. It was the first time I felt so….American. However, our hunger prompted us to learn fast. Our professors quickly taught us our first, and probably what would be our most important lesson, the bocadillo. What is this strange word you ask? Is it an animal? A vegetable? A type of drink? No, no my friends. It is a delicious, cheap sandwich made on a baguette that usually containing meat and cheese. I got jamon y queso, and I don’t know if it was just because I hadn’t eaten in hours, but it was the best sandwich I ever had.