In the Shadow of the Spanish Sun

In the Shadow of the Spanish Sun

Jason embarks on a six-month journey to study abroad in Spain. When he arrives, he knows nothing but his own culture: an environment of greed, spiraling economic standards, and fast-paced rat races. After encounters with immigrant pick-up soccer, exotic cultures, and pushing the limit of fun, Jason dives too deep into these Spanish subcultures. He may find it difficult to return to his life in the United States. Then, he meets a girl. Will love turn him into an expatriate?

Preview: In the Shadow of the Spanish Sun

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The heat made me feel worse as I strolled through the Madrid airport and I felt overwhelmed by the mass of people who hustled in every direction toward their terminals. The lack of English in the air dropped my confidence to an all-time low. My train to Oviedo left in three hours, so I had some time to kill. I mustered all my strength and dragged my massive red travel backpack to a food stand.

Uno jugo,” I said.

The Spanish clerk looked at me like I was speaking Japanese. I pointed to the orange juice in the glass refrigerator window.

Zumo,” said the clerk, though his attitude said, “This dumb American can’t even order a juice!”

I paid and sipped my orange juice slowly while I stewed in embarrassment. After a few similar encounters at the Renfe train ticket window and a sandwich shop, I realized that many vocabulary words I learned in my minimal Mexican-based Spanish education didn’t translate well in Spain. Zumo, not jugo.

In the train station’s waiting area, I found an open seat next to a young Spanish family with two small boys. The mother scrambled around the seating area in countless attempts to control the boys’ energy. The father sat quietly in the seat; his smartphone kept him occupied. Passengers boarded the train.

What the hell am I doing here? I sat alone in a window seat. The train inched forward. The September sun beat down on the semi-mountainous Spanish countryside and I watched with passive curiosity. The scenery provided more entertainment than the boring movie playing on the train’s video screen. As I gazed through my translucent reflection in the window, thoughts of doubt, excitement, and pending adventure filled my mind. My confidence shrunk, partly due to my embarrassing entrance into the country, partly from my realization that the world was quickly becoming bigger and more complex than I originally thought.

I spent two weeks away from my home state while on a high school class trip to Mexico. Other than that, I stuck close to home. Now, I prepared for a four-month journey in a foreign country with nothing but my backpack and my wits to keep me afloat. Am I ready for this?


Five hours passed and the train pulled into the Oviedo station. I threw my backpack over my shoulder. It weighed me down since it carried everything I would need for the duration of my study abroad semester. After a few wrong turns, I pulled out the map. Finally, I made it to the front door of the study abroad office and rang the bell.

Si,” said the mysterious female voice coming through the wall speaker.

“Um, hi,” I stammered. “I’m Jason. Is this the International Study Program office?”

The door buzzed open and I walked into a small courtyard surrounded by towering six-story apartments on all sides. I made my way to door number three, hoping this was the right door. A woman in her mid-thirties greeted me in rapid Spanish and led me to a small conference room. She motioned to the pastries on the table. I ate one out of hunger and another out of nervousness.

I sat alone in the room for a few minutes and wondered what to do. My eyes wandered around the room. Pictures hung from the walls that depicted students on previous study abroad trips with overly excited expressions in absurdly picturesque locations, none of which were in Spain. The yellow walls gave the room a warm atmosphere. Then I heard door number three open again.

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