¡Hola a todos! I am in my second full week of life here in Córdoba, España. So far it has been FANTASTIC, and a little challenging. I have so much on my mind already about my time here, so for this week I’m going to write about my first impressions of Córdoba and Spanish culture, what I’ve learned, and show you all a bit of Córdoba.

When you study abroad, you hear a lot about “culture shock” and how to prepare for being in a new and different environment. I haven’t really experienced culture shock yet-its mostly just “cultural enchantment!” Since I’ve been here I have discovered some things that Spain just does better- here are a few.

1.In Córdoba it is super hot in the summer (it gets up to 110 degrees F!) and around 50 degrees F in the winter, right now. One way people in Córdoba stay warm is by having lots of space heaters in their houses. In my apartment my host family has a space heater under the dining room table, and then a big tablecloth on the table. When we eat we put the tablecloth on our laps like a blanket and then our legs and feet get all the warmth from the space heater. It’s so warm and cozy! It seems pretty common here, not surprisingly.

2.Free food. In much of Spain, especially Andalucía, you receive a “tapa” with your evening beer or wine. People generally go out for tapas around 8-9, and when you order something to drink you get something to eat “gratis,” or free! It’s not a lot of food, but it’s a nice little snack to tide you over until that 10 o clock dinner. Also it’s super cheap- a glass of wine or beer usually costs around 1.50 to 2 euros, and you’re really getting a drink and food!

3. Pace of life. From only being in Spain for a few weeks I have really noticed a stark difference in the way Spaniards and Americans think about time, and furthermore their lives. In America the concept of “wasting time” is fairly pervasive. Especially as a hardworking college student looking towards the future, I find myself often thinking of how to maximize my time as much as possible, how to always be productive, and seeing “free time” and relaxation as something to be earned. In Spain the emphasis is not to do the most impressive things with your life or make the most money, but to enjoy your life. My host mom said it best to me the first day I was here: “En los Estados Unidos, la gente vivir para trabajar. En España, la gente trabajar para vivir.” “In America, people live to work. In Spain, people work in order to live.” There are many ways this manifests itself. Spaniards spend more time with their families, usually just hanging out and talking. Seeing extended family is not only reserved for holidays (this is aided by the fact that people tend to live close to where they grew up). People don’t usually entertain at home, they go out of their houses to socialize and thus meet and interact with more people. And in general the pace of life is slower, there’s less of the hurried sense that life in much of America has.

4. Attitude towards foreigners. Every Spanish person I have talked to has been so friendly and welcoming. Furthermore, many people are excited to talk with me even though my Spanish still needs a lot of work. If I apologize for not asking many questions or being able to communicate what I want to say they are really understanding and kind! I can’t help but compare this with the way many Americans think about immigrants or people who don’t speak perfect English. We definitely could learn a bit from the Spanish on this topic.

Ok, now a bit more about Córdoba! Córdoba was once the largest city in the world, when it was the center of Moorish society and the seat of the Islamic Caliphate in the 10th and 11th centuries. For hundreds of years, Muslims, Christians, and Jews all lived in Córdoba in harmony. Part of the city is the original antique city which is home to the famous Mosque-Cathedral and the Jewish Quarter, or Juderia.

The rest of the city is fairly modern with a lot of Spanish charm sprinkled throughout. Córdoba is relatively small and it only takes about 30 minutes to walk from the northern area of the city to the river, where the old quarter is. As you walk through the city you’ll see plenty of cafes and bars (which are actually often combined in Spain), and people out with their friends and family. You might stroll through the park, Jardines de la Victoria, that runs along much of Córdoba’s downtown area. It has various statues, fountains, as well as a large indoor market, Mercado Victoria, in the center. The Mercado has food, bars, and even a discoteca on the second floor! Past the downtown center is Plaza de las Tendillas, which has a grand fountain in the middle and is surrounded by beautiful, old buildings. Once you walk through the Plaza you will enter the antique area of the city, where the Mosque-Cathedral and the Jewish Quarter are located. The cobblestone streets are narrow and the houses have large and elaborate doors. There are balconies covered in vines and plants on every building. It’s charming and as you’re wandering through the winding streets, you feel like you’re in another time.

I have had a great first two weeks in Córdoba, and I’m so excited to continue learning Spanish and discovering more about this city’s culture and history!

Celia Cody-Carrese studied abroad in Cordoba, Spain, in Winter 2017: