Aaron Ruster-Mack
2011-12 Outbound to Spain

Hometown: Fort Myers, Florida
School: Fort Myers High School
Sponsor: Fort Myers South Rotary Club, District 6960, Florida
Host: Rotary Club of Barcelona Condal, District 2202, Spain

Aaron's Bio

HOLA! Hi my name is Aaron Ruster-Mack, I am 15 years of age and I live in Fort Myers Florida. But I haven’t lived in Fort Myers my whole life, I have moved around many times. I was actually born in a small town called Rota and it is located in Spain which ironic because that is exactly where I’ll be spending a year of my life! But until then I am attending Fort Myers high school as a sophomore, my school is very big there is nearly 2000 people in it! My school is one of the best around and I like it very much, there are many things to do at my school such as clubs or sports. I play soccer and run in track for my school.

When I am not at school I am usually with my family. I have one sister and one brother my sister is 17 and she drives me too and from school. My brother is 20 and he lives in Chicago, He is currently going to school for the U.S. Navy. I am also a host brother to an exchange student from Denmark named Sebastian and last year to a French foreign exchange student named Camille. I also have to wonderful but very old dogs named Olivia and Sally.

I am a very active and outgoing person, I like to go on adventures and explore new things. I am also very competitive and I like to have fun. I also love to play soccer, but I play almost every other sport I also like to watch sports and I keep up with my favorite teams. I also like to listen to music, my favorite singers are kid Cudi, Asher Roth, and Sam Adams.

I can’t wait to go to Spain! It’s going to be an amazing experience and it will define me as a person for many years to come. Am going to miss my family and friends like crazy, but I will have a new family and I will make new friends so it will all be worth it in the end. None of this would be possible without rotary presenting me with this amazing opportunity. Thank you so much!

Me in Camp Nou watching FCB play Real Zaragoza, Barcelona won 4-0!!       

Me in Camp Nou watching FCB play Real Zaragoza, Barcelona won 4-0!!      

At the train station in Madrid after a great orientation!

At the train station in Madrid after a great orientation!

Fighting a Roman knight in a castle in Taraggona!

Fighting a Roman knight in a castle in Taraggona!

Me in front of the Casa Mila designed my Gaudi.

Me in front of the Casa Mila designed my Gaudi.

At park Güell by the famous lizard statue.

At park Güell by the famous lizard statue.

Aaron's Journals

December 01, 2011

As I am writing this journal I am rapidly approaching three months from the day of my arrival to the second largest city in Spain, Barcelona of course! Two months can really fly by when you’re having fun, but in those short seven weeks I have gained a great amount of knowledge and experience. I feel as if I have become a new more independent person, living in a big city can really give you a lot of freedom. I don’t have to rely on people or cars for everything because of the metro, tram, or busses and the great thing is everything is close together so I can walk to almost anywhere. When I received the news that I will be living in none only than Barcelona I was ecstatic! If I could have chosen one place in Spain, probably the world, it would have been this great city. I feel extremely lucky to be placed in such a fantastic place. Now, before I left, I thought Western Europe is really not that much different than the US. I was wrong it is much different than I had expected albeit not as much as Japan or India but it was definitively a shock. I have now learned this different culture and I am used to it, I feel like I fit in, I can now call Barcelona home.

Language

I feel as if have made leaps and bounds on my Spanish although I am not fluent I can understand almost everything and I can hold some conversations which, compared to when I got here is really saying something. I did a lot of research on Spain, Barcelona in particular, before I arrived and I learned that they spoke another language here, But I didn’t really think it was a big deal I thought I’ll be in Spain so I’ll be speaking in Spanish, right? Wrong. Catalan, the native language of Catalonia is EVERYWHERE I had no idea! While at my house I speak Spanish with my family because they are “pro-Spain” but at school every single class is in Catalan, and on top of that all my friends speak Catalan to each other. This is a big problem because I only know about five words in Catalan. I have also learned it is nearly impossible to learn two languages at once so I decided to make the all-important decision to learn Spanish first and Catalan second because I spend most of my time with my family and they don’t like to speak Catalan. As for my friends I speak to them in Spanish and they answer me in Spanish so this is fine. I really do hope by the time that I leave I will proudly say I’m tri-lingual!

Culture

Catalonia is a huge deal! Many people living here don’t even consider themselves Spanish or that they even live in Spain. They have different customs, traditions, and foods that that is different than anywhere else in the world. It is a very pressing issue because a great amount of people want to be independent from Spain. The Catalan Culture is very rich and historical they have different ways of doing things and different ways of entertaining that single them out from the rest of the world. I would have to say the number one thing for Catalans is soccer, as the best club in the world is situated in Catalonia (Football Club Barcelona or just FCB). But soccer is far more than just a sport, its way for Catalonia to show and represent itself to the world, it’s a way of life here and it is shown by the FCB's motto “Més que un club” which means “more than a club”. Another way of entertaining here and something that I have come to love is when I see Castells teams practice, Castells is an ancient sport in Catalonia where people build towers using themselves and they can sometimes get eight people high! But overall, I would have to say the main difference is the food. I did not think it was gong to be this different, just about everything I eat here is new. Even when they make things I would normally have in Florida it tastes no where near the same, but I think the Mediterranean flavors are finally starting to grow on me. One thing I did like as soon as I got here was the bread, for some reason it tastes so much better and we have it every meal. Bread isn't a food here it's a necessity for every meal like a fork or a plate.

School and Friends

School is not that much different than in Florida it’s about the same hours and there are six different classes a day. But what is strange is that there are no separate boys and girls restrooms it’s all unisex and we don’t change classes but rather the teacher does, so I stay with the same people all day. There are also no water fountains not just in school but anywhere you have to use the faucet and turn your head to the side. My School is situated on a hillside and my class is on the sixth floor of the school so I can see the whole city out the window the view is quite amazing. The teachers are very accommodating and have been great with helping me with everything. As for my friends in my class they are all really nice and welcoming they have been great with showing me around and bringing me places I feel as if I will make friends for life here. They are also very eager to learn about the United States and practice their English which is very advanced since they start learning it at age four. I have also realized how much of an impact that USA really has, almost everyone here loves it and so much of what they say, do, watch, and listen to is greatly influenced by America. I feel lucky to have grown up in such a great country, nearly everyone in my class wants to go there. Another thing I found out was that they have very little pride for their own country I don’t know if it’s just the Catalan in them speaking but it is very surprising as one kid in my class asked “why would you come to Spain and leave America? Spain is the rubbish of the world.”

Activities

Being thrown in a new place can really keep you busy. Since my inauguration here I have done many things such as joining a soccer team and joining a Spanish class outside of school. Not to mention seeing a plethora of sights, you could really spend a year here and not see everything, but I will try my best. My friends have also brought me to numerous “fiestas” and I have seen a whole other side of the city at night. There is never a dull moment here, at any time can walk out more door and in fifteen minutes I can be lost in the small roman alleys of the old city, it’s like entering a new world.

I can’t express how grateful I am for this opportunity it just keeps getting better here. I am learning a lot although I do miss my family and friends back home dearly I feel as if it is definitely worth it. This journal doesn’t even come close to expressing how much I have learned and experienced, words can’t begin describe how it feels to wake up every morning here. It feels like Florida is a distant memory and this is just a dream I can already see how hard it will be to leave. I came here with no expectations just to see where this takes me and I can already say this is the greatest thing I have ever done, through the ups and downs I know I will look back on this year as one of the best decisions I have ever made, everyone should be an exchange student.