October 8 Journal
Ah Spain. Here I sit, in my beautiful house in the sea side village of Cambrils. I’ve never seen such beauty. Mountains surrounding me, the Mediterranean at my feet. Life has never been so good.
I’ve been here for about a month and so much has already happened. I’ve already experienced so many first time things. So where do I begin? Hmmmm, probably at 5:00 a.m. in Orlando International Airport…
This was it, the moment I had been waiting for since I even knew foreign exchange existed. The moment I had been anticipating for about a year now. I hugged my little brother, mom, and daddy good bye, shed a few tears, and walked into security. I had never been so scared in my life. This was my first time flying, so I had no idea what I was doing. I went through security, got to my gate, waited, boarded and took off. After being on the plane for all of 15 minutes, it hit me and it hit me hard. All I could think was “my god, what have I done?” “Umm stewardess, is there a turn this plane around button?!” There goes my 18 years of life, my amazing family, my great friends, my cute little puppies all bundled together in the only town I’ve ever known. So, as you can imagine, I turned on the waterworks.
I let a few tears slide by, after a whole minute of doubt, I stopped. This was the opportunity I had been waiting my whole life for, to say good-bye, to discover things by myself. I took a vow to myself that first flight, that I would not lose myself to pity, I would stay strong, and overcome these hard yet rewarding obstacles in my very very near future. I guess I was in some sort of denial about really leaving, it felt like the day would never come, but it came, and it took me by surprise. The rest of my flights went well, no delays or problems, besides not sleeping for 36 hours, I was much too anxious the night before, as you can imagine.
My first day in Spain was very much a haze. I was exhausted, but smiling through it all. I was really blown-away by the scenery and still am. Every day, I want to take a picture of the mountains, they’re so gorgeous! I’ve become very accustomed to life here though. I feel as if this is my home, and actually got a little home sick for my home in Spain while I was in Madrid for my orientation, which was really odd to me.
I started school the second week I was here; I was a little nervous to say the least. Because I’ve already graduated, the school decided that I didn’t have to worry too much about doing the assignments because they are hard even for Spanish speakers, so I mostly sit, listen, write down everything they say and translate lots. The girls at my school are so sweet and the guys here are not so nice … I will not go into that. Back to the girls, the ones in my class are very nice and include me in everything they do, which I am very grateful for. One girl, everyday asks… “can you speak Spanish yet” The other girls can get by with their English, they say things in English to me and have me repeat them in Spanish, it’s actually very helpful. If I use the sayings throughout the day they get so happy and clap. The other students who I have not really talked to always walk by and say “halo” - they can’t get the E sound right, I always hear them giggle afterwards, it’s cute.
Every day at school is like a comedy act. The questions I get and the comments are so hilarious. My math teacher in particular always is interested in me, especially the first few days. On my very first day in her class, the students explained to her that I spoke no Spanish or Catalan. She was immediately flustered, they continued to tell her that I didn’t have to do the work and so on. She seemed a little relieved. The class went on, I sat and listened, not understanding a word, just sitting like all the other students. She stopped speaking, looked at me and announced to the class something in Spanish; she kept pointing at me and speaking. The girl next to me who speaks very good English explained to me that the teacher told the class that “this is a beautiful American girl, everyone needs to talk to her and be her friend so she will learn quickly.” I immediately turned a rosy shade. I was so embarrassed. The next day, she came up to me and started speaking to me in Spanish, I just smiled, she then told the girl next to me to translate. The teacher wanted to know if my high school back in Florida was like High School Musical, with the basketball players and cheerleaders, etc. My response: “si” haha
The funniest part is my friends are constantly hounding me with questions on America’s gun policy, or insurance or Obama, and my teacher is asking about High School Musical … complete opposite of what I expected, but that’s one thing I’ve learned, throw your expectations out the window and just go with the flow. Besides school, I enjoy riding my bike, or should I say falling off my bike :p walking to the beach, swimming, shopping! Spanish TV is quite humorous, and sometimes I think I should cover my eyes, lots of nudity and blood, but to the people here, that’s normal, so it’s becoming normal to me.
Every day here is different than the one before, every question is given a simple response, si or no, every rude comment and sweet remark is a gracias. I never know what's next and I absolutely love that feeling now. Like I said before, I have no expectations, I go, I experience, I live, I learn. To me, everything given or asked of me is an opportunity to see something I didn’t see yesterday. To experience the mountains in a different light, the ocean at a different temperature. This exchange has already tested my endurance, my taste buds, my ability to make friends solely by being American and smiling a lot, by attempting the language and failing most of the time but receiving ample amounts of praise, pats on the back, never ending smiles when I am in fact correct, that’s about 2 out of every 10 tries. But as an exchange student, you can’t be afraid to be incorrect, you just have to laugh at yourself, correct it, remember it and move on to the next attempt.
I sometimes look at my life here and think that I'm the luckiest girl alive. I really do feel that way. I have an amazing family, a beautiful town and house, good friends at school, and a never doubtful support system back in the states. I’ve already been to Madrid and Barcelona and tons of smaller beautiful cities in between. At the end of October, my family is taking me to southern Spain for a mini vacation and in December we’ll be going to the mountains to visit my grandparents for Christmas, skiing and what not. I can honestly say I haven’t been this happy in a long time. I feel invincible and I’ve never been so open to new concepts and ideas. I am already changing before my eyes, there is nothing I can do to stop it and really I don’t want it to stop, I’m liking what I see. So, I leave you with that, my life after a month is amazing. I am at home here in Spain.
Thank you everyone from RYE, John Siegel, and all the outbounds of course - your encouragement is the best kind; and also my family there and here - your support is incredible.
Until next time, Adios
February 8 Journal
Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and these months are quickly forming into the greatest year of my life. I know it’s been a while since my last journal, but many things have been going on and to be honest I’ve been at a loss for words. It’s difficult to write about your everyday life, as simple a task it may sound. Everyday has become somewhat similar than the one before, little things pop up here and there, but for the most part, it's school, Spanish lessons, delicious meals, and just hanging out with my host mom and sister. The weekends are a whole different story though; I try and go into a nearby city at least every weekend. I’m only a short train ride away from Barcelona (the most beautiful city in the World), so even though I live in the suburbs, I make it a point to go to the city as much as possible. I’ve also been enjoying the night life Spain has to offer, I understand why taking a siesta is so popular here. It's normal to not leave the house until 12:00 a.m! That was my curfew back in Florida, haha
The past 4 months I’ve been given a lot of opportunities to see many of the different regions of Spain. In October, my family and I flew down south to Andalusia and stayed in Sevilla. We visited Cordoba and Granada as well. I was completely blown away with how beautiful southern Spain is. It was warm, sunny, and friendly. I was without a doubt in love and completely jealous of the exchange students who lived there. Over Christmas break we stayed with my Grandparents in a little pueblo called Bailo. Bailo is in the Aragon region of Spain. The town has about 200 inhabitants on a good day. Although I was far from civilization, I really liked it, we were up in the Mountains, and it was just gorgeous. The Pyrenees Mountains are really something else. I’ve also recently been to Valencia and hope to go back and see more of what that city has to offer. What I find so interesting about Spain is just how separated a country it truly is. Because it's split up into the different regions, it really feels like you're going into an entirely different country when you cross regional borders. The food, architecture, traditions, and commonly the language are completely different than any neighboring regions. It's good and bad, it definitely makes you have a sense of pride towards where you come from. But in turn, I feel as though the pride for Spain as a whole isn't really there. I might be a little brainwashed on this issue, considering my region, Catalonia desires complete independence from Spain (although I don’t exactly agree with this). Each day my love/hate relationship for my region grows and I enjoy asking my classmates how they feel about Catalan independence. Spaniards tend to have quite strong opinions, Catalans tend to have even stronger ones.
Like I said in my previous journal, this place is my home, I feel just as comfortable here as I would in Florida. One part of me calls Eustis, Florida- The City of Bright Tomorrows, what I’ve always known, trusted, and experienced my home. The other part of me has already put its roots deep down in Cambrils, Spain. Is it possible to have your heart completely torn down the middle? In my situation and for all the other exchange students, I hope so.
I’ve never had such mixed emotions in my entire life than I have had since I’ve arrived. One minute I’m filled with complete and utter happiness, the next minute lonely, and confused. I’m not saying it’s all bad, but it’s definitely not a glamorous vacation, it's life, it's REAL life. I think this is something that many people forget when they think of an exchange student. It’s not a prolonged vacation; it's school, work, hardships, fun times, it's definitely worth EVERY single low point that you come across. Some days, when I’m really frustrated with the language or missing my family, the days when crawling out of bed seems impossible, I try and remember the bigger picture that I am taking part in. The lifetime connections I am creating, the unforgettable memories, the crossing of cultures and the breaking of stereotypes.
So I leave you with that, once again thanks to Mr. Siegel, everyone from RYE Florida, my family, chocolate, and the public libraries of Salou and Cambrils.
April 26 Journal
It is April. I’m stepping on a plane in June.
Just when I feel like my life here is coming together, I see it slowly but surely unraveling before my eyes. I’m still living life, happier than I have ever been, but in all that I do, there is a little voice in my head telling me to take it all in, it could be the last time you do this.
Just two weeks ago at this time, I was eating a Spanish style lunch with my family (my real family), showing my mom, dad, and little brother everything about Barcelona. Owning the metro like I had lived there for years, telling them little stories behind why people do this or that, speaking in Spanish at restaurants and parking garages for them, showing my father how to pump gas (this I found hilarious). Showing my town off to my parents felt like the greatest accomplishment. It felt so good to actually know where I was going and what was going on, it was the strangest feeling being in charge of my parents. Forgetting English words and asking them if that’s how you say that in English also felt like an accomplishment. The week they were here had to have been one of the greatest parts of my exchange. I feel so lucky that they were able to come and I think I have even inspired my little brother to one day be an exchange student. Having both of my families in my backyard here, sipping sangria and sharing stories was an unforgettable moment in my life. When it was finally time for my parents to leave, I thought it would be really hard and a crying fest like back in September, instead it felt really natural. It made me realize how at home I have become here, my family might have left, but my life still goes on here for me, school occasionally ;) Spanish lessons, bike rides, beach, etc.
So, what’s next for me? I have less than two months left. Less than two months to travel, shop, eat as much as I can, two months to mentally prepare myself for college, and two months to be with my family, my Spanish family.