Savannah Branch


Hometown:Gainesville, Florida
School: P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club:Gainesville, Florida
Host District: District 2230
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Murcia


My Bio

Hola, My name is Savannah Branch; I am 16 years old and a sophomore at P.K.Yonge DRS in Gainesville, Fl. I have a rather large family with my Mom, Stepfather, and younger sister living in Gainesville; And my Dad, Stepmother, and four younger brothers living in Melrose, Fl. I am a member of the P.K.Yonge varsity soccer team, cross country team, women’s’ ensemble choir, and Odyssey of the Mind club. However, I have made the decision to leave all of this behind as I am about to embark on a new adventure in…. SPAIN!!!! I will be spending my entire junior year studying and immersing myself in Spain’s beautiful culture. Words can’t express how excited I am to represent Rotary Youth Exchange in Spain. I have seen the amazing experiences and opportunities my close friends have had through Rotary, and this led me to pursue an adventure of my own. I have been fortunate enough to spend the past three years studying Spanish at my school and I hope that this experience will help me achieve my goal of fluency. I know that after this exchange I will return a different, yet better person. So, I would like to thank Rotary, my family, and my wonderful friends for supporting me. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I can’t wait to see all the wonderful experiences Spain has to offer.

he valley

he valley

Statue of Christ overlooking Monteagudo

Statue of Christ overlooking Monteagudo

Statue of Christ overlooking Monteagudo

Statue of Christ overlooking Monteagudo

Sunset over the soccer field

Sunset over the soccer field

Picnic in the castle ruins

Picnic in the castle ruins

Cathedral in Caravaca

Cathedral in Caravaca

Mountains of Caravaca

Mountains of Caravaca

Journals: Savannah - Spain

  • Savannah, outbound to Spain

    You would think that the more time I spend here in Spain, the more I would have to say. Well, I can tell you that as my time here grows shorter and shorter it gets harder and harder to put things into words. There is a certain point in exchange where everything just becomes harder to do, harder to say.

    Any reflection, presentation, or Rotary meeting turns into a crying fest or overly sentimental period of time. Over the past month we have had our final Rotary meeting, welcoming of the new outbounds dinner, and for some the ending of the school year. Unfortunately making time pass faster than I believe it should. I remember very clearly the moment it sort of “hit me”; well, hit “us” is more like it.

    Sitting in my friend Mia’s house working on our Rotary presentations one afternoon, I pulled up a calendar and found myself staring at a tiny little square of a month. There were nine little checked off squares behind it and now I only had one little square left. I wasn’t ready to lose my squares. I freaked out, and kind of came to the realization that I do actually have to go home. I can’t speak Spanish forever, take siestas every day, and continue to eat dinner at 10pm on the regular. I actually have to deal with the whole “reverse culture shock” and trying to fit myself back into the role I was in before I left. It’s all really scary, and I can’t honestly describe how I feel about facing a family and set of friends that expect me to be exactly the same as I was before I left. However, one way or another it will all sort out.

    Now, the month of May was very interesting. To start, I had my mother come and visit me here in Spain. To say that experience was strange is an understatement. I had created my life here and had been comfortably living in it for 9 months, and now this strange person from my life before was just….here. Don’t get me wrong, playing translator was fun and I liked being able to put my Spanish to the test. However, it was strange to be with this person that couldn’t really function in society alone; thus, making me appreciate my first host family even more because they had to be patient with me for a lot longer than a few days.

    We stayed in my city for a couple days and then made our way to Madrid. I had been to Madrid briefly before, but it was so nice to be able to go and see all the touristy sites and whatnot. Overall Madrid was lovely, but I have to say that I missed my city so much while I was away for an entire 4 days. I remember saying “ugh, I'm ready to go home” and my mother “only a few more weeks, sweetie”. Um, sorry but I meant home in Murcia, not the United States. After talking to the other exchange students in my city who had gone away with their parents too, I knew I wasn’t alone in thinking this way. We all have fallen in love with our city, and can’t stand to be away from our home for very long. I am so happy to know how much Murcia means to me, but it will only make going back to the U.S that much harder.

    Overall, I feel that this month started out crazy busy with my mother coming, proceeded to get somewhat depressing as the exchange student went through a teary sentimental phase about our impending departures, and now has resolved into a state of anticipation as we prepare for Eurotour and summer time festivities. Speaking of Eurotour, on June 8th I will be embarking on a 10 day journey through several European countries with my fellow Spanish exchange students. Starting in Paris, then Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, and finishing in Prague. When I return from this trip I will have two days of school left to say goodbye to my classmates, and then a measly three weeks to say goodbye to the country that has become my home. Therefore, my next journal will be my last; I hope those who read them have enjoyed what I have to say. Until next time!

  • Savannah, outbound to Spain

    Here we are, 2 month out from our returning ventures back to the U.S. I can’t help but think about how fast the next few weeks are going to fly by, especially since I am going to be so busy. Speaking of busy, the past month has been quite an eventful one. At the beginning of April we had a huge festival here in Murcia capital called Bando de La Huerta. Basically it is “party in the orchard”; Murcia is known for its fruits and vegetables that grow so nicely in our many orchards. So, every year during the spring there is a daylong party to celebrate the traditional Murcian attire and culture. If you were here you would have seen hundreds of teenagers running around the city in very flattering baggy white pants, white shirts, colorful vests, and sashes around our wastes.

    From about 10 am to 10 pm people are in the parks and streets having a wonderfully loud Fiesta!!! I expected nothing less from Spain, especially my home of Mur cia Ciudad. Shortly after we all returned to school to finish up our last trimester and let me tell you, it DEFINITELY feels like the last trimester. It takes everything I have to wake up and hop on that 30 minute bus ride to school at 7:30 am.

    In other news, this month we celebrated my best friend Raven’s 17th birthday!!! My friend Mia and I organized a “surprise” party with her host parents and invited all our friends over to celebrate with a huge Tarta (cake) and pastel de carne (Murcian dinner pastry). We also organized for her best friend from Colorado (currently on exchange in Sweden) to come for the weekend. It was so much fun to have some good old exchange student comradery. Also, it goes to show how hospitable and loving Spaniards truly are. They open there home to anyone and everyone and want all visitors to experience Spain to the fullest; another reason why exchange in Spain is so amazing. Anyway, our friend absolutely loved Murcia and I hope to see him here again before he leaves for home. On his last day, which was Raven’s actual birthday, we all took a bus to the airport in a neighboring beach city called Alicante. We said our “see ya laters” and saw him off to his plane. However, being the exchange students we are, had to hop over to the beach and make a day out of it. We had pizza and music on the beach and enjoyed a beautiful Monday in Alicante. We danced, waved our American flags, and befriended our fellow beach goers.

    I am currently rounding off April with school and some beautiful weather that I have been waiting a long time for. Also, there are SO MANY British people here this time of year. My friends and I always joke about how annoying the foreigners are even though we are about as foreign as you can get. However, we do speak Spanish which usually makes up for our blonde hair and blue eyed-ness. In May I am expecting an impending visit from my Mother and cousins. I’m looking forward to seeing her, but I feel like it will be kind of weird to have my two worlds colliding. I have two families here that call me “daughter”, so I think it will be interesting to see how it all goes. Also, right after a visit from my mother, I can get excited for eurotour!!! I’m only doing the first half but I’m so stoked to travel with all my friends from Spain. It’s going to be amazing. We are all being pretty frugal with our spending in efforts to save for the trip, so hopefully we can keep control of ourselves for the next few weeks. Until next month!

  • Savannah, outbound to Spain

    Hola todo el mundo! Yo no puedo creer que he estado aquí para 7 meses ya. Alguna veces parece que yo solo estaba aquí para 3 días y otra veces para 3 años. Yo no quiero volver a mi pais, yo prefiero quedar aqui con mi nueva familia y amigos. Esta ciudad tiene mi corazon para siempre y yo quiero decir gracias a Rotary. Sin Rotary esto año no es posible.

    Okay! So, 7 months have flown by, no big deal or anything. Only that my year is ALMOST OVER! My friends and I are constantly on the verge of tears when we are together. We can’t stand the thought of leaving this country, or each other for that matter. Even my Rotary friends back home are texting me to say that the next three months are going to go by so fast. It just goes to show that you need to make the most of every moment that you have, because soon you’re organizing plane tickets to journey home.

    I am currently sitting in my room listening to the sounds of one of many Semana Santa processions marching under my window. During holy week we have a parade every night for about 4 hours that marches very slowly throughout the city. They play drums, carry candles, and hand out candy to the little kids on the street. The people marching wear long robes and pointy hats, each night a different color robe. It is so much fun to sit at a tapas bar munching on some snacks while you watch the procession march through. My friends and I have really been enjoying this week. However, next week gets better because everyone in the city dresses in typical Murcian costumes and goes to parties all throughout the city; the girls in long dresses, and the boys in pants and vests. Unfortunately, the temperature has risen the past week so it won’t be the most comfortable attire to be parading around under the hot, Spanish sun in. Once the festivities conclude at the end of next week, all the students have to get ready to return to school. Only one more trimester and we will be free! I am so looking forward to going back to the beach and sleeping the hot afternoons away in the shade. Summer, please please please come soon. Until next month!

  • Savannah, outbound to Spain

    Hola, everyone! Well, here I am, celebrating 6 unbelievable months in Spain. It is truly remarkable to think about all I have done, and all the goals I have achieved since my arrival. I am currently writing this journal as I sit in the sunshine on my family’s rooftop terrace. I have an amazing view of my town and the valley containing the city that has become my home. Behind me stands the towering statue of Christ that my town, Monteagudo, is famous for.

    I have yet to change host families, but I expect to be moving to the city shortly. The move will be difficult, yet I’m excited to have the challenge of adapting to city life. I have grown accustomed to our chickens that roam around the courtyard, the quite evenings free from traffic noises, and my afternoons on the roof with our dog sleeping at my feet. Living such a relaxed and natural lifestyle has been so nice. In the U.S, we are always so busy. We zip across town all day, eat meals with one hand and drive with the other, and don’t spend a whole lot of time together. Living here I have had the luxury of being able to slow down and enjoy everything. My host family has been more than I could ever hope for. They have given me an awesome home, and made me love every second I’ve spent here. I will miss them so much when I move, and even more when I have to return to the United States.

    With 6 amazing months spent in Spain, I have definitely been feeling the effects of living abroad for half a year. My English is getting worse with every day spent speaking in Spanish, and my Spanish is definitely not improving as fast as it was a few months ago. I have had to really push myself to learn more and more. I write my personal journals in Spanish, and I often just write conversations or stories in my notebook during class. Which brings up the fact that paying attention to 6 hours of philosophy, economics, or Spanish literature lectures is extremely hard to do. I have definitely been more successful in practicing Spanish or other subjects that are a bit more accessible.

    All in all, I am confident in saying that I have achieved proficiency in Spanish. However, I would love to have a bit more to show for a year abroad when I return. (fingers crossed). Apart from the language, I was expecting to have had a harder time being away from home. I miss everyone a lot, and can’t wait to see them again. However, I honestly haven’t had much homesickness to deal with. I find that I am really at home here, and could honestly probably stay a lot longer than ten months without any problems. I think the vast majority of my exchange friends feel the same way. The friends I have here and the exchange students from back home are all in love with where they live. I know we are all sad that time is passing so quickly, and want to make the last few months really count.

    This journal was rather short, yet there will be lots more to write about later. Until next time!

  • Savannah, outbound to Spain

    Half-way through exchange already?!?! It is almost scary to think about how far I’ve come since I arrived in Murcia. So much has changed in what seems like a few short weeks. I remember being a very excited outbound preparing for my exchange. Everyone warned us about how fast the time will go, and before you know it you will be back home. However, I didn’t really listen, because I knew I’d be here for an ENTIRE 10 months. It seems like such a long amount of time when you’re looking at it from a distance. Yet, here I am, 5 months in and it seems like only last week I was getting off the plane. So, make the most of every moment and always try new things.

    Now, last entry I believe I was coming down from the Holiday high that was Christmas, New Years, and Dia de los Reyes Magos. Unfortunately, I have had returned to the daily routine of school and homework. Not that school is bad, because it isn’t. My Spanish is better and I have awesome friends and teachers. However, with better language abilities comes the obligation to up my homework game. All in all it’s really helping me learn a lot and progress academically.

    So far February has been a busy month. Exams to study for, projects to work on, but the exchange students have also done some really cool stuff. For starters, my Rotary club sponsored a city wide scavenger hunt. We split up into teams of three and hunted clues throughout Murcia. I was able to see a lot more of the city that I didn’t know about. Also, we were running round for about 4 hours so it was quite a workout as well.

    In addition to the hunt, the Holirun finally came to Murcia! It’s a 5k color run with music and tons of cool stuff. The Murcian exchange students and some kids from Alicante all met up and did it together. It was so awesome and probably one of my favorite things I’ve done so far. I did tons of 5ks back home, but this was so different. Spaniards definitely know how to do it right when it comes to 5ks. There was a giant stage blasting music all day with about 7,000 people participating. Nobody actually ran, though. If you were there you would have seen everyone walking, dancing, stopping for beers and tapas, and most importantly playing in all the color (basically anything other than racing). Afterwards we danced at the foot of the stage with everyone else and sported our colors all over Murcia. However, this is only the start. The weekend coming up we are starting our Carnival celebrations that will last over the next two weeks. Parties, costumes, food, and tons of fun can be expected. I’m really looking forward to having one last big celebration before I have to switch families.

    Speaking of, I only have about 2 more weeks left with my current family before I leave Monteagudo to live in the middle of the city. I’m pretty excited to have a new experience, but really sad to leave my family. They are so nice and have taught me so much about Spain.

    I think this is the same for all exchange students. This time of year we are switching families, and coming to the startling conclusion that we are well over the half way point in exchange. It has turned into a countdown to when we have to go back home. It makes you realize that you have to take advantage of every moment left here. I’m cramming as much language as I can, going to as many places as I can, and trying not to freak out as I book return plane tickets to the U.S.

    Yet, despite all of this, it makes me realize that I’ve done it. I have a family here, friends, a life. All is proof that I have assimilated into the culture and made myself at home in a place so very different from my home country. Just the other day I was rereading my personal journal from when I was preparing to leave for exchange, and I saw a huge difference in myself. The way I write, how I view the world, my ideas and thoughts, they are all changing and beginning to reflect the person I am becoming. All in all just proving what can happen in a short year. I try to remember this if I ever feel worried about leaving. I came here and did what all exchange students set out to do, and I’m so happy to even have had this amazing opportunity. I have learned, and will continue learning more about myself and the world I live in. I hope all exchange students get to feel like this, and encourage everyone to make the most of every moment they have abroad.

  • Savannah, outbound to Spain

    I can’t believe I am currently working on month number five of my exchange! The past few weeks have been filled with Holidays, friends, family, and no school! For those that go to countries that celebrate Holidays around this time of year, it is the best time to really learn more about the culture.

    So far, I have celebrated Navidad (Christmas), Noche Vieja (New Year), and dia de los tres reyes magos (Three King's Day). It has been so much fun and definitely the highlight of my exchange so far. In my last journal I talked about how there are lights all over the city and music in the evenings. Well, that doesn’t even compare to the actual Holidays themselves. There are bands playing, parades going on, life size nativity scenes in each neighborhood, bounce houses, ice skating rinks (so scary, I’m terrible at anything ice/snow related), and so much more.

    Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) it is usually spent with your family at home. So, my family and I had a lovely dinner and skyped my host sister in Canada while we were eating. I also took it upon myself to put up our Christmas tree and other decorations. It was a lot smaller than I’m used to. Back home the normal Christmas crew includes about 20-30 people, no less. However, having a very intimate Christmas with my family was really nice.

    The same went for Christmas day; everyone in Spain is with their families and relaxing at home. Many, like my family, found themselves munching on Jamon and holiday sweets throughout the afternoon. Soon after came New Year's Eve! This being an even bigger deal than in the U.S, and so much more fun. Like Christmas, we had a nice dinner and then prepared for the countdown to midnight. In Spain, you eat twelve grapes, one for each chime of the clock at midnight. Then, you celebrate the new year with champagne (called Cava in Spain) and head out to spend the night celebrating. It was by far the best New Year' s Eve I have ever had.

    Once Christmas and the New Year came and went, my family and I took some time to explore the region of Murcia together. It is difficult to take trips because of school and soccer, but we found some time to do some really cool stuff. First, we went a bit north of my city to the border of Murcia and Alicante. We went to this awesome mountain that has a spring at the bottom. People come to wash clothes, get drinking water, or just enjoy the fresh air.

    My family and I had our car FILLED with water bottles because this is where we get our drinking water from. It is fresh, natural, and free. It was so nice to be able to sit and talk to the people who live there. Often, people aren’t quite sure why I’m with my host family because I tend to stick out a bit with my horrible accent and blonde hair. However, my parents like to tell people I’m their temporary kid just to watch them be confused. After, we went into the very small town to a winery. There were actually quite a few wineries in the town, but this one had giant barrels of wine with huge hoses dangling from the top. We also managed to bring several jugs home with us. It was really cool to be able to visit and learn how they make the wine.

    The business had been in this family for years and they were so passionate about their work. They were so excited to know that I was so interested and intrigued by the process. It is the little trips like this that always teach you the most. You don’t always have to go to the biggest cities, or the most famous monuments. If you really want to learn about the culture, take the time to talk to the everyday people you may not have noticed before.

    Another really awesome trip was when my family and I drove up to the mountains on the east side of the valley. Here you can find the cathedral dedicated to the Patron of Murcia. Each region has a patron. In Murcia, we have the Fuensanta and the Santuario de la Fuensanta in the mountains. This cathedral had the most amazing views of the entire valley. I could see where I lived, the cathedral in the city, where I go to school, everything. This cathedral was built in the 1500s, with the most recent parts being added on in the late 1800s.

    In addition to the cathedral you can follow the roads on the mountain to castle ruins, a convent, an abandoned orphanage, a wildlife rehabilitation center, and many cafes for the much needed coffee and snack breaks. Along the mountain you can find cyclists, horseback riders, runners, and the occasional horse and carriage. People come from all over to spend the day here and enjoy all there is to do. I will definitely be returning to hike more of the mountain.

    On the way home from the mountain, we went by our friend’s Panaderia. Let me tell you, there is nothing in Spain that I love more than a good bakery. Well, they only make bread, but it is my favorite thing in the entire world. The bread here is so good and they bake in these huge wood fired ovens. I love visiting the bakery because it is so warm and smells so good. Also, you can always find the best people in places like these. Normally In smaller towns like the one I live in; the people all know each other and are very close. So, there is always the usual crowd of old men smoking their cigarettes and playing dominos outside the bakeries and cafes. I love being able to talk to them, and they like asking me things about America and if the food in Spain is better (which it kind of is).

    So, spending the days hanging out with friends and family, exploring Murcia, and relaxing by my living room fireplace has proved to be the proper way to enjoy the holidays in Spain. Over the next month or so I can look forward to some really cool Rotary trips, starting school again, and maybe even some warmer weather. But most of all I am looking forward to my impending trip to Barcelona! However, that is for another journal.

    Also, shout out to all the new outbounds back home! I hope y’all are getting really excited because the day you leave will be here before you know it. Also, I know of only one person coming to Spain, but anyone please feel free to contact me through email or facebook if you have any questions. Same goes for all the other outbounds, the best way to prepare is by talking to those who have experienced exchange before. Until next time!!!!

  • Savannah, outbound to Spain

    Well, three months in Spain have come faster than I would care to admit. The more and more time I spend here, the harder it is for me to write these journals. While I want to blame it on my busy life here, I can’t deny the fact that it is just simply hard to talk about what I’ve gone through. You definitely see a change in yourself early on. One that I’m sure will only become more significant with more time spent away from home. I’m more patient when working through situations that normally would stress me out, I’m more willing to push myself to achieve my goals, I’m not as intimidated by the need to problem solve, and I’ve also really learned to just trust my gut. These are skills that will be evolving and improving throughout this year, and I can’t wait to see this person I become at the end of this exchange.

    With that said, I’m also beyond excited to point out that it is almost CHRISTMAS!!! Some say that the holidays are the roughest time for an exchange student, but I’m finding them to be the most fun. Starting with my Thanksgiving in Spain, I really got into the holiday spirit with my friends and family here. They all came over and we sat around the dinner table eating and laughing. We were also equipped with some fancy Thanksgiving themed table settings curtesy of my Grandma back home (Thanks Mona). Another lovely thing about Christmas in Spain is that the city is now lit up at night! I have absolutely loved walking around the city with my exchange friends and seeing all the decorations. There is Christmas music playing, lights in the trees, and Christmas trees in the display windows. It is also really nice to be able to bundle up by the fire at night because it is freezing (only about 35-40 degrees but that is basically the Arctic.).

    The only down side about our upcoming 3 week break from school is the fact that finals are currently consuming everyone at my school. My friends have been really stressed out for the past few weeks. It physically pains me to see them at school because they are in a constant state of panic, thus drawing my attention to the differences in schooling here. Everyone has to memorize definitions, theories, formulas, and word for word passages from the text. This is very different for me because in the U.S you are tested on your ability to use information to infer, do, and show your understanding of a concept. Here all you have to do is memorize and write as much as you can. Of course, many subjects are a bit out of reach for me. However, I’ve been doing well with math, history, English, and my photography and image classes. Normally I am the English go-to for last minute help or simply comic relief when everyone looks a bit too nervous.

    Once break has commenced, I’m planning on spending a lot of time exploring the city with my exchange friends. There are 10 of us in Murcia and we have gotten really close these past few months. When you hear exchange students say that exchange students are the best people you will meet, we’re right. Exchange has a way of bringing so many different people together, and uniting them for one cause; to live in a foreign country for an entire year without knowing the people, language, or general culture and somehow make it work. I have to admit, I think we are doing a pretty good job. We all come from different walks of life and that has made it so much more interesting. I cannot wait to see what the rest of this year holds for us, and I only wish we had more time in this country I have come to love.

  • Savanah, outbound to Spain

    Well, the journals are coming along a lot faster than I had anticipated. I want to believe this is happening because I am just so eager to put all my adventures and experiences into a well-crafted journal entry. However, the big motivator hit me about 20 minutes ago as I was browsing RYE Florida’s website. I have come to the startling realization that there is about to be a BRAND NEW set of outbounds, itching to find out when they can leave for their exchange.

    This is totally scary seeing as how my exchange started two seconds ago and I feel like the end is getting closer and closer. It seems like only yesterday that I was nervously entering the interview rooms, waiting for that dreaded phone call to tell me my fate, and finally finding out where I would be studying for my year abroad. So, upcoming outbounds, I envy you. Because this next year will fly by, and soon you will be boarding those planes and entering your country knowing you h ave a full 10 months of awesomeness ahead of you. It is literally the greatest feeling ever.

    So, even though time has NOT been on my side, I’m still enjoying every second in Spain. If you outbounds are anything like I was, you’re probably reading as many journals as possible to see what’s the what with the countries you chose on your application (just because you put certain countries on your application doesn’t mean you’ll be sent there. Spain wasn’t on my list but I couldn’t be happier. Just remember that Rotary knows you best and will place you were you will succeed). Anyway, here is to a fantastic 2 months in Spain, and even better ones to follow.

    It is crazy to think of all I have accomplished in only two months. It’s hard to measure how well your language or cultural skills have improved, but I often look back upon my first weeks here and realize how much I have truly learned. A lot of the success has definitely come from school and the help of new friends and teachers. I am finally in a place where I can somewhat complete homework assignments, read aloud to the class when we’re reading in our textbooks, and converse with my friends about almost any topic; some more smoothly than others.

    My English teacher has me do all the assignments in Spanish, so that is another way I can improve my writing and speaking skills. Over the past few weeks of school, we have done some pretty cool stuff; my favorite being our rafting field trip. My grade took a bus to a nearby city for the day, and went on a rafting trip down the river. It was freezing! But still the best field trip ever. We rode down waterfalls, and were pulling each other out of our rafts along the way. I feel like that in America, schools would never take kids on those types of trips. However, that is just one of the many differences between American school and school in Spain.

    Another significant difference is the way people treat each other here. In America we have a huge problem with bullying and disrespect towards other people. However, I have noticed that all of the students here, whether they like a person or not, are never mean to them. Apart from that, the way students handle school work here is very different as well. In America, it isn’t very common for students to fail a year. If they do, the blame immediately goes towards the teacher. It is always something that is wrong with the teacher and how they didn’t do this or that. In Spain, the teacher comes in the room, teaches what needs to be taught, and that’s it. The student has the choice to listen and take notes to pass the exams, or fail and s imply repeat the year. Many of the people I know have repeated multiple years. Whether or not this is an as effective or more effective education system isn’t really the question. These are two completely different cultures that have found what works for them.

    Other than school, I have also been able to figure out more little life hacks here in Spain. The public transportation system has been conquered (didn’t even get lost), do some shopping on my own (I mostly buy food tbh), and have been able to ask questions and converse more and more. Once you reach this point it is the greatest feeling ever. I hated the awkward phase where you are pretty much settled in, but your language still sucks so you can’t really do a whole lot by yourself. It is so nice to be able to go out without having a chaperone or translator by your side at all times. Yet another reason to practice your host language as much as possible before you leave!!!

    I highly recommend any future outbounds to try and join some type of sports team or activity in Spain. It gives you another group of friends, and an opportunity to go to new places. I have been playing soccer for a team in my city and I absolutely love it. It is great exercise, and I love having the familiar feeling of a team family like I did back home. I recently went to the coolest town EVER for one of our games. It is a small city called Caravaca, about an hour and a half north of my home in Murcia. It is so incredibly old, and full of history and beautiful cathedrals. It was the site of one of the battles in the Crusades and just walking down the streets will take your breath away. There are so many places in Spain that are like this, and I only wish I could visit them all.

  • Savannah, outbound to Spain

    One month in Spain, only nine more left..... 

    A MONTH ALREADY?????!!!??? It’s so hard to believe that I have been living in Spain for a little over a month. It seems like only yesterday that I was arriving in Spain without a clue of what I was getting myself into. However, here I am, 30 days into my new life in Spain.

    From being here this long I can safely say that this was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Now, before I get into sharing all my stories and adventures, I want to point out how absolutely amazing this opportunity is. If you are even the slightest bit interested in what Rotary Youth Exchange is about, PLEASE take the time to find out more. Read and reread journals from current and past students, find one of us on Facebook, or just contact a local Rotarian. The biggest help for me in making the decision to study abroad was reading these journals. Hearing about all the adventure, excitement, struggles, and growth one experiences through RYE made me want this m ore than anything. So, please enjoy!

    So, a little more about my host family before I start….
    I live in Monteagudo, Murcia. It is an extremely small community just outside of the city of Murcia in Spain. I live with my host Mom, host Dad, host Sister, and numerous pets. My school is in a neighboring town called Llano de Brujas, and is about a 10 minute bus ride every day. I have been in Spain for a total of 4 weeks and have been going to school for 2 ½.

    Being here for a month has allowed me to basically check out everything in my town and city. I have been to the beach in Murcia, twice to the beach in Alicante (literally the most beautiful place I have ever seen), went camping in Madrid for Rotary’s orientation, Bicicleta Festival in Murcia, and much more, with my favorite definitely being going to the beach in Alicante. It is such a beautiful city and it has AMAZING beaches. Water in the Mediterranean Sea is so calm, and the temperature is perfect. You can see all the way to the bottom of the crystal clear water. (I could have stayed there forever tbh). I will definitely be returning as often as possible.

    Now that school has started I have pretty much settled into a routine here. The weekdays all usually run the same, and have started to blur together as time goes by. My average weekday in Spain looks a little like this….
    1. Drag myself out of bed at 6:45
    2. Get ready and hop on my very fancy school bus, that conveniently stops across the street from my house, at 7:35 (the buses are not the smelly yellow school buses we Americans know so well, they are nice charter buses that have A/C…… praise)
    3. Start school at 8:25 and sit through six hours of Spanish instruction.
    4. Get home by 3 and eat lunch with the fam
    5. Siesta for about 2-3 hours (my favorite part of the day)
    6. Finish up homework and do whatever we want until dinner which is usually around 9:30-10:00

    Now, school in Spain is very different from school in the U.S. In Spain, students stay in the same classroom for the majority of the day, while the teachers switch rooms every class period. So, I have become really close to all of my classmates and have been able to make a lot of friends this way. Being the exchange student was pretty cool at first, and still is. The teachers understand that I can’t necessarily produce the same quality of work as the other kids, so they often help me out and give me assignments that allow me to practice my Spanish writing and speaking skills.

    I take notes throughout the day and go home and review what I didn’t understand during the lectures. However, I do participate a lot in my English class and even my World History course. Outside of the classroom, you would expect to find clubs or sports teams at a school. However, in Spain, they don’t have these things affiliated with the school. So, you have to join these activities through your town or city’s organizations. I have recently signed up to be a part of the Real Murcia girls’ soccer team. I will start practicing Tuesdays and Thursdays, with games on the weekends!!!!! (I’m super excited) Other activities that are really popular here are martial arts classes, Boy Scouts, gymnastics, volleyball, and basketball.

    When the school week ends, the weekends are usually spent hanging out with friends, going to the beach (when the weather is nice), or doing things with your family. So far, I have spent two weekends going to the beach, and the rest just exploring the city and towns with my new friends. I have made so many good friends in my school and especially good friends through Rotary. There are two other exchange students living outside the city, and another 5 in the city of Murcia. I think I speak for all of the exchange students when I say that Rotary, and Spain in general, have been so welcoming and take really good care of us. But that’s just part of the culture here.

    I feel that no matter who you talk to, or who you meet, the people here are always so willing to help you out. Whether it is language struggles, directions, or just a friendly conversation, everyone is really open to you. However, one of the most rewarding parts of living in Spain has to be learning the language. I have improved so much in the past few weeks; even my friends and host parents have complimented my language several times. Another good sign is that it was surprisingly difficult to write this journal. I've become so used to Spanish that none of this English sounds right as I type it or read it aloud.

    Well, that’s it for this journal  You will probably hear from me again next month with more stories from Spain!

  • Savanah, outbound to Spain

    My first week in Spain!!!!!!! 

    I have been in Spain for a total of three days!!!! Honestly these past days have been the weirdest, yet most exciting days of my life. To be completely honest, at the beginning of this week I found myself questioning whether or not I would be able to handle this exchange. I was a complete mess trying to travel from Boston to Madrid, and then Madrid to a smaller town called Alicante. I managed to find myself on a plane that was arriving late to Madrid (this gave me less than an hour to connect). For those who don’t know, the Barajas airport in Madrid is HUGE so walking to where I needed to be took a solid 15 min. Anyway, to make a long story short…….

    1. Missed my flight to Alicante
    2. Couldn’t connect to Wi-Fi to communicate
    3. Had to wait an hour to find my checked bag
    4. Argued with customer service lady because she wanted me to pay a fee for a new ticket
    5. Found an ATM and reluctantly took out 210 Euros for my ticket
    6. Checked my bag AGAIN
    7. Arrived in Alicante 4 hours after I was supposed to be there. 

    But other than that it was GREAT! But really, once I was with my host family everything was fine. We ate lunch by the beach in Alicante, walked on the beach for a bit, and heading to our home in Monteagudo, Murcia. Over the past couple days I have been meeting new friends and seeing the town with my host sister. I absolutely LOVE Monteagudo. It is a very small place, but that is what gives it its charm. One of the most famous monuments in Monteagudo is the statue of Christ that looks over all of Murcia. My favorite thing I have done so far is climb to the top and look across the valley. We have also been to the city of Murcia, several ice cream shops, and to neighboring towns to get kabob. Also, I have made a beautiful discovery in that there is an ice cream shop in Casillas that plays classic rock and has foosball.

    Now, all of this fun is extremely tiring. Especially since everything is in Spanish. I am slowly starting to get used to the accent and speech patterns common to those in Murcia. For example, in Murcia they have a phrase that says “nosotros comemos letras” or “we eat letters”. They said this because when they speak they often talk so fast that they just don’t include the ending letters of most words. When I realized this I felt a huge relief. I now realized that I may not be as stupid as I thought. I finally understood why I didn’t really understand anything being said. It seems that just knowing that this whole eating letters business was a thing, has made it a lot easier to comprehend what people say.
    Until next Journal!!!

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