October 20, 2013
I wish there was words to completely explain what exchange life is exactly like. Its a mix of emotions from being extremely confused from not knowing the language to being so happy you can't help, but to smile 24/7 and just stop what you're doing in the day to look around and go "Holy crap i'm in Spain living my dream." This has been pretty much my life for the past month I've been living in Spain.
I landed in Madrid, Spain on September 9th, which was probably the most confusing day of my life. I had no idea what was happening, because A. it was 7 a.m. and I had been flying for the past 9 hours & B. I had no idea what was being said to me since they were speaking in such rapid Spanish. At this point I realized how difficult this was going to be in the beginning, but it made me excited for the day when I can actually understand what they are saying and have a conversation. The first week in Spain though, was a complete blur with everything going on around you…….aka culture shock. Spain has a lot of things similar to America, but still very different. I'm lucky that I have such a wonderful host family that has helped me a lot and got me through my culture shock. Before you go on exchange Rotary tells you about different things that will happen like culture shock, but you really don't know what it is until it hits you full force. Other then all the culture shock, my first week was so much fun! Getting to explore my town of Zaragoza, meeting my new family, tasting new foods, and experiencing a new culture its all so exciting! In that first week when I first got to see my city of Zaragoza I fell in love with it almost instantly. It has so much history in it and it is so beautiful. It is home to old streets, many churches, bull fighting arena, tons of wind, a professional soccer team (Real Zaragoza), and a ancient Cathedral that is beautiful! Zaragoza is the perfect mix of ancient architecture and modern architecture. Some of the buildings are so wonderful that I catch myself starring at them when I'm on my way to school every day.
I live outside of Zaragoza in a small town called Garrapinillos that is about 20 minutes by car to Zaragoza. Its along the country side of Zaragoza, so I get to see lots of wide open fields and smaller town life. In Garrapinillos they have a few shops, bakeries, a old church, and fields. The best part of the bakeries is that the bread is super cheap here since they eat so much of it, so you can get two fresh baked loafs of bread for one Euro! It will in the long run make me gain a few pounds, but what do I care I'm in Spain! In February I will be switching host families to a family that lives in the city of Zaragoza, so it will be nice to see the difference of living in a big city compared to the outskirts of it.
The school I go to is a public school in the middle of downtown Zaragoza for kids that range from about 6 years old to 18 years old. Its a very old building with no AC or a heater and let me tell you this Florida girl has been very chilly here, since in October- March it get very cold here. Heres a tip for anyone planning on going on exchange: bring lots of sweaters, skip the short sleeve shirts! My host family and friends thinks its very funny how cold I am and all they say is "wait for December when it gets even colder!" Anyways, I love going to school in the city, since after school or during the break in school I can walk around the city look in shops or bakeries (there is a lot of bakeries that have amazing smells coming from them). I've gotten pretty use to riding the bus everywhere so its very convenient to take the bus when you want to go somewhere.
So far in my first month I have been lucky enough to do the following: Go to Barcelona for a long weekend, go to a famous theme park, go to a Barcelona beach, visit Madrid, go hiking up a mountain, try amazing new food, gain a few pounds, meet lots of people, go shopping at the biggest mall in all of Europe, go to a week long Fiesta called Fiestas del Pilar in Zaragoza (very famous), go to my first bull fight, and best of all be apart of my new family here in Spain. My host family is amazing and treat me as their long lost daughter. My host brother, who is 12, treats me as if I'm his actual sister and not some guest living in the same house. Its awesome! The people I have met, teens and adults, have been the nicest people I have ever met! They are incredibly nice to me and trying to make me feel at homeEverything I have experienced has been amazing! My favorite thing to do here is tell Spaniards that there is two alligators that live in the pond behind my house and getting to see their face in complete shock and ask me "how are you not dead?! Don't they attack and kill people?!" Its great!!! Barcelona by far has the prettiest beaches I have ever seen! Thats a big thing coming from a Florida girl who has seen a lot of beaches! Furthermore, Fiesta del Pilars is a huge celebration that celebrates the Virgin Mary and the cathedral that is located in Zaragoza. For a week straight they have huge concerts, ceremonies, and different activities. In that week span Zaragoza does not sleep. People are constantly dancing, eating, and having fun! During that week I went to so many concerts, including very famous Spanish singers! The concerts happen outside the cathedral in the Plaza de Pilar and a few thousand people come to every concert. When I wasn't at a concert I was exploring different food booths/ craft stand looking at everything! It was so much fun getting to see all the different Spanish stuff. During Pilars one of the d ays my host dad took me to my first ever bull fight! Its a big thing in Spain and its more of like a ceremony. During the fight they have special things that they do and wear special clothes. It was so cool to see, but I felt bad for the bulls! On the Saturday of Pilars they have a huge ceremony that starts at 7 a.m. and goes to 8 p.m. that night. They build a huge statue made completely out of flowers and everyone dresses up in clothes from the past and takes flowers to the statue to help build it. The statue must be at least 200 feet tall full of flowers! My family got up super early that morning and dressed me up in this old beautiful dress and we went to go walk in the parade that delivers the flowers to the statue. It was so much fun to experience this! By the end of the night I went back to Zaragoza with some of my friends and saw this breath taking statue! It was so beautiful as it was all lighten up! Moments like this make me so glad I made the decision to apply for this wonderful program! This was by far the best decision I have ever made in my life.
I can't wait for what Spain has in store for me in the future and I've never been so excited for it all to happen. I'm so blessed to been able to come to Spain and I don't have the words to be able to thank Rotary and my family. If you are looking to go on exchange just stop what you are doing and go apply! Its by far the best decision anyone could ever make. The way it changes you for the better and the things you experience just make it worth it. The things i've learned in a month are things I would probably never learn or it would take me till i'm 20+ to learn it. Being a exchange student it really that awesome.
March 30, 2014
I can't believe it’s already been 6 months since I left Florida! The time has past so quickly! I've been so busy that I keep on forgetting to update! I'm sorry!!!!!!
However, to keep you in the loop since I last posted, I will start with November! November was a very fun month, because my American friends and I planned a Spanish Thanksgiving feast! Even though it wasn't on thanksgiving, but the day after (because we had school), it was so much fun! We all made a ton of American styled food for everyone! My host family and their friends all came, my Spanish friends, my fellow American friends, my friends from Australia, and my friend from Finland! The non-Americans got to enjoy their very first Thanksgiving, even with a turkey!!
In December was a ton of fun! I got to experience my very first Spanish Christmas! Christmas eve and day were different from the way I usually celebrate back in America. It was still really cool though. For Christmas Eve we went to my host grandmas house for dinner. She cooked like a 6 course meal with amazing food! We stayed at her house till 3 a.m. then went home to open our Christmas presents! However, my host brother and I fell asleep in the car so we just decided to open our presents in the morning (In Spain most people open their presents on Christmas Eve). Then the next morning we opened up our presents and my host parents got me a Real Madrid Jersey which I almost died, because I love Real Madrid!! After, our entire family came over for a gigantic lunch. It was nice enjoying every ones company and having the feeling of Christmas!
Before our winter break ended, my host family took me on a trip to the Basque Country. We went to the main cities in that region, so I could see how different each part of Spain is! Where I live in Spain is very dry and it looks almost like a desert, but the Basque Country region is very green and has grass! I seriously didn't see any grass for like 4 months. In Zaragoza there’s lots of trees, but no grass. We went to a ton of different cities and did things like: Went into caves, went to this awesome zoo, went to museums, ate a lot, played in Snow, went to different beaches, etc. The cities we went to were: Cantabria, Santander, Bilbao, and lots of little cities in between! It was amazing and I had so much fun! We got back from Vacation on New Years Eve so we got to celebrate it the normal Spanish way. For people in Spain on New Years Eve everyone must wear red underwear and the color red. For dinner Spanish people have all their family over for dinner and have a huge feast! Then at midnight they turn on the tv for the countdown to midnight. Instead of doing the count down to midnight like in America, in Spain they start at 12 and at every second the clock makes a loud BANG sound and you have to eat a grape. So at the end you have eaten a total of 12 grapes. It’s a very hard task to do! Then after you go out and have fun with your friends!
In February, I switched host families for the very first time! I've been very lucky and got two great host families! My new host family is wonderful! In this family I have a Host mom, dad, sister, and brother. My host sister went on exchange to New Jersey and my host brother lives in London to study English. They live directly next door to the Real Zaragoza soccer stadium, so its super cool to live next door to a professional soccer stadium! My family is huge soccer fans, so we go to almost every Real Zaragoza games and watch every FC Barcelona game or Real Madrid game on tv. I love it! All of the trashcans by the stadium are shaped like giant soccer balls, only in Spain Hahaha!! My new house is also super close to my school, so it very easy to get there every day!
Now March! March has been a pretty chill month hanging out with my Spanish friends and with my host family. On a long weekend my first host family took me and the other exchange student in Zaragoza with them to go skiing in France! I've previously gone on day trips to France, because I live only 3 ish hours from the border. This time though we went for the whole weekend! On our way to France we stopped at a Village called Alquezar. It was one of the prettiest villages I've seen! It was very old, so there was a lot to look at. Then we made our way to France and went Skiing for the day and ate crepes! Let me say you have not lived until you have had a French Crepe! Preferably a nutella crepe! Through out the weekend we stopped in villages and castle to look around, which they were all very pretty!
This is everything I have been up to so far in my amazing experience so far! It's been a roller coaster of emotions, but its so worth it in the end. I would not trade this experience for the world! From all the people I've met and being able to experience Europe makes me never want to leave! It's going to be hard to get on that plane in July to have to come back to America! At this point I’m trying not to think about July and I'm just looking forward to my last few months her
Until my next post, ¡Hasta Luego!