Joe Gravelle


Hometown: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
School: Allen D. Nease Senior High School
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club: Ponte Vedra Beach Sunset, Florida
Host District: 2201
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Vigo


My Bio

¡Hola! My name is Joe Gravelle and I am exited to spend next year in Spain. I am extremely grateful to Rotary for this opportunity. I live in Ponte Vedra Beach with my parents and my older brother. I am a Sophomore (age 16) at Nease High School. My favorite subjects are science and english, although they are not necessarily my strongest. I am quite laid back, and I rarely get stressed or angry. I love to play soccer and hang out with my friends in my free time. I gravitate towards people who have varied interests, and a sense of humor. I also am a lector at my church, and I play piano for fun. I love to speak in front of large groups of people, and even more than speaking in front of groups of people, I enjoy doing spirited debates. I spend most of my time either doing homework in the rigorous IB program, playing varsity soccer at Nease, or doing freestyle with a soccer ball in the driveway. I am extremely psyched to be a part of this exchange because I love doing new things, meeting new people, learning, and doing something different than the usual crowd, I feel like this is the perfect combination of those passions of mine.

Journals: Joe - Spain 2015-2016

  • Joe, outbound to Spain

    The past two months of my exchange have passed incredibly quickly, and I savor every day I have left in this amazing country. I can’t imagine leaving behind the life I have been able to create here thanks to Rotary.

    A few weeks ago I went to the city of Burgos on a phenomenal trip with Rotary. I was able to learn more about the culture of Spain, about the amazing excavation site called Atapuerca, and most importantly I was able meet some amazing people. I think it is incredible that students from countries all around the world can come together and create amazing and lasting friendships; and learn that although there are many geographical, lingual, and social differences separating us, we still have so much in common.

    Although I love spending time with Rotary students, I spend most of my time immersed in the amazing Spanish culture with the friends I have made here. The Spanish culture is amazing. It’s laid-back, and the people are incredibly nice and outgoing, I have really made some amazing friends here in Spain who will be tough to leave behind.

    School in Spain in very different than school in the United States, and I think, for the better. School here definitely is more difficult and is victim to less grade inflation, grades are given on a 1-10 scale, a 5 is passing, and it is normal for students to have there grades average around a 6 or a 7. Most classes don’t have any homework, and only one or two big exams every trimester.

    The exams and curriculum isn’t as government-run as in the United States, and this gives teachers more freedom to teach more complicated subjects or whatever subjects they feel deserve more attention. The school is not divided into an advanced group and a standard group. Everyone spends time with the same class filled with students of varying school performance levels the whole day, and although I feel this could be less than ideal for some students, it does keep the majority of the students from being left behind. It also creates a social system in which the students have more co mmon ground, as they are all from the same class.

    In the Spanish school the ideas of cliques, popular, jock, or nerd are really unheard of. I have people come up and ask me about those types of groups after seeing American movies taking place in high school, and regretfully I have had to inform them that a type of social hierarchy does in fact exist in the schools in which I have been in the US (of course not nearly to the same degree as in movies). I feel like this social hierarchy which results in bullying and cliques of students could be a product of intense competition in American culture. I’m not saying competition doesn’t exist in Spanish culture (take Spanish soccer as evidence), but the Spanish culture does not put the same amount of pressure to “be the best” on children in schools as does the American culture.

    I am absolutely loving my time here in Spain, and I can’t imagine leaving this amazing country in June. Thank you Rotary for this amazing opportunity.

    To see my homepage click HERE

  • Joe, outbound to Spain

    As I cross the halfway point in my exchange, I can look back and really see how far I’ve come. I’ve adapted to living in this new culture, a culture that a year ago I knew almost nothing about. I’ve learned the language at a fast pace, and am able to express my self in my new language. I have learned an incredible amount about the world, Spain, and the United States, and how people and societies from around the world really can learn to work together and live in peace. And also with its due importance, I have learned much about myself.

    During the past month and a half I have been very busy with school in Spain (which is quite rigorous), but one weekend I was able to travel to Madrid to spend two days with a family who live in Madrid that I knew from the United States. It was very cool to visit them again, as when we would spend time together in the United States we would only speak in English, and if they wanted to say something that maybe we wouldn’t want to hear, they could switch to Spanish and we wouldn’t have a clue. When I went to visit them in Madrid we spoke a fun mix of English and Spanish, and me being able to speak Spanish definitely added another layer of depth to our relation.

    To speak about my language acquisition in Spain, I would be avoiding the elephant in the room if I didn’t mention the word “fluent”. Fluent, “able to speak a language very well” (Merriam Webster), I believe carries with it a misleading connotation. A huge focus of my exchange (and I feel the exchange of most students) was to become fluent. My quarrel with this word is that its usage seems to imply there exists a moment in which one crosses the line dividing fluency and non-fluency. That one day on my exchange I would go to bed not knowing the language, and wake up fluent. I feel like this goal of a singular moment of achievement has anchored my ideas of what defines excellence or success. That if I reached the level “fluent” in Spanish I would be able to talk to so many people and I would have reached a level of excellence in Spanish. That if I became rich I could travel the world and do so many cool things, and live a life filled with excellence. That if I got good grades in school I would be guaranteed excellence without regard for keeping the work ethic learned by getting good grades.

    In school (in Spain) I study the subject philosophy. In this class I have learned the interesting way in which great minds view the world. Aristotle (a very important figure in this subject) says in his famous quote “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”. I feel like this quote is incredibly true. Relating to my views of achievement listed earlier, would working hard to achieve excellence in fluency of Spanish really achieve anything if I didn’t practice the language for years afterwards, and lost the fluency? Would becoming rich matter if I abandoned my practices which made me rich and squandered my money and got left with nothing? Would getting good grades in school matter if I abandoned the habits and practices that helped me achieve good grades after graduating? This quote by Aristotle articulates a great lesson I have learned on exchange. That Excellence is not just a goal we can reach (becoming fluent, getting rich, getting great grades in school) nor is it reaching a certain level or status (“fluent”, “millionaire”, “Harvard”). Excellence is the values (determination, love, compassion) that we show every day. By creating and living by these habits of excellence, we can still achieve these goals. But we will not be who we are or excellent as a result of achieving a goal, we will have achieved the goal as a result of who we are and what we do every day to grow excellence.

    Bringing this view into the perspective of my year as an exchange student. This year is not just “my one year abroad in Spain”, of which I can tell stories of my achievements for years to come. This is a special year woven into the fabric of my life; a year with incredible challenges to help me shape who I am , and who I want to become. By the same token, I will strive to implement into my daily habits what I learned in Spain. I will act upon what I have learned from my year abroad every single day, to shape who I am. If I bring the lessons I’ve learned, the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been into my everyday life. I will become something much more than a title, an achievement, or a story. I would become closer the embodiment of the values of determination, love, and compassion I would show every single day.

    So I feel that what one should ask about a student's exchange is not if the student is fluent, but if the student is applying themselves fully to immerse themselves in the culture, to learn the language, and to grow and learn as a person.

    I would like to thank Rotary for giving me this incredible opportunity to experience the world in a new way.

    To see my homepage click HERE

  • Joe, outbound to Spain

    On Monday, November 23, my teacher told us (my class and I), that we were to have an exam in the afternoon right after school on Thanksgiving Day. I was rather disappointed to hear this, as I was definitely opposed to the idea of having to take a lengthy test on Spanish literature on an important American holiday. Despite this, I studied for the exam, and went to school with the exam looming over my head all day. When we went after school (my class and I) to take the exam, we were not presented with an exam – we were presented with a Thanksgiving surprise lunch. I was incredibly surprised, and my dumbfounded reaction surely stirred my classmates into laughter. More than surprised, I was extremely grateful, that my class, my teachers, and even the principal took time to prepare this amazing surprise for me to help me celebrate a national holiday of my home country.

    This amazing act of kindness – like many other acts of kindness I have received in my stay in Spain - is something I don’t think I will ever forget.

    Since my last journal I’ve been in Spain in a great time of year, “holiday season”. This constituted of my host family and I trekking to the South of Spain and visiting their family in the city of Jaen (we also visited Seville Salamanca and various other smaller towns on our way to Jaen). In Jaen we had a very large Christmas celebration with a lot of (host) family, food, and… more food. We also celebrated New Years (eve and day) in Vigo, and this too consisted of a lot of family and food.

    Overall I am having an amazing year and experience, and I would like to thank Rotary for giving me this opportunity.

    To see my home page click HERE

  • Joe, outbound to Spain

    I’ve been in Spain for around 2 months now, and I am truly having the time of my life, and I am extremely grateful to Rotary for this incredible opportunity.

    Trying to describe my life so far on exchange in just a journal is like trying to tell a really weird and personal joke that is hilarious to me (and to whoever was there), but impossible to understand for listeners. And some listeners will even think that they understand the joke, but really they can't. Everyone has these “jokes”, and many strong friends will share profuse amounts of them. I feel like these “jokes”, these stories that can’t be captured in a picture or story or journal, are something really special about life, and more directly, my exchange. In my journal there is no story I can tell, no picture I can show, no feeling I can write that can really capture the true essence of my exchange. But with that said, here is my journal recounting the last surreal month I have spent in the beautiful city of Vigo.

    Since last posting a journal I travelled an incredible amount and participated in many activities. I’ve gone to Italy for a week, and travelled all around Galicia (my region of Spain). I’ve gone to fiestas, ran a race, played soccer; I could make a list for every week. But what has really made these moments special so far is the people I have been around. I talked last week about how great my host family is, and how friendly my classmates are in my school at Spain, and now I am hitting a point when I am starting to make real connections with these amazing people.
    The connections and friendships I have made in Vigo are unreal. My friends and I try to get together about all the days we can, we walk to and from school together, and Whatsapp daily. I’ve also really realized in my time abroad how strong my connections are with my friends and family in Florida. I love them all, and have felt homesick on occasion. The time I’ve spent away from them has really solidified how strong our bonds can really be, in that I think about them every day.

    I feel like an important facet of my exchange so far has been that I have been another student in my school, and not just “the exchange student”. In my school I am (usually) treated normally by my professors. I have to do the homework, study for tests; and I, like my classmates, make plans for the weekend, and of course, wish it would come faster. Yes, I don’t get privileges such as not having to go to school, or getting to travel all of the time with Rotary, but in return I get a very accurate and personal view of school and life as a student in Vigo, Spain.

    I keep this journal short because there is really one thing I’ve learned so far on exchange. What matters the most is not where you go, what you see, or what you gain. But instead it is that you do what you love, and much more importantly, you do it with people who you love.


    To see my home page click HERE

  • Joe, outbound to Spain

    I have been in Spain for a month now, and am definitely having an experience like no other. When I was informed I would be spending the next year of my life in Spain back in December I was absolutely elated. I was exited that I would be able to see Europe, learn Spanish, and watch La Liga. Now that I have been here for a month I am more elated than ever to be in Spain, but for different reasons. What has really made my experience special so far is the amazing people I have been surrounded by.

    My host family in Spain is very different than my family at home, but an absolutely amazing host family that I am lucky to now be a part of. I have a very compassionate mother and father, a brother my age, another brother slightly younger, and a very young sister (who along with my younger host brother can be quite entertaining and also quite loud). My host family has been instrumental in the success of my exchange so far. They are always eager to talk with me, help my Spanish, help me with my homework, or help me with anything else I could need. They have really treated me as if I were their own son.

    The friends I have made so far in Spain are amazing. In school, my classmates are very compassionate, helpful, and funny. Just after three weeks of school I have a group of actual close friends that I can Whatsapp, walk home from school with, and count on to have my back if I need help with anything. On my two soccer teams my teammates and coaches are extremely helpful in making sure I actually have an idea of what is going on, and helping me develop as a player. The friends I have made through Rotary are special as well. I am stunned how people from all around the word can come together and form such strong friendships. I now have close friends from Spain, Germany, Austria, Canada, Japan, and Taiwan. This forever changes my view of the world, and shown me how easily it is to get along with anyone.

    Since coming to Spain I have also been able to see awe-inspiring sights and go to amazing places. I have been to a beautiful Island Chain (The Cíes Islands), Seen Celta Vigo beat Barcelona in person, play soccer almost every day, go to fiestas, and much more, and that is just in my first month. I am going to Italy in a week, and plan on traveling much more around Spain after that.

    I live in a huge port city called Vigo in Spain and I absolutely love it. In Vigo everything I need is close to my house. My friends live nearby, I have a small soccer field behind my apartment building, the grocery store is across the street, and I can walk through a beautiful city to and from school with friends.

    What I have learned in Spain in such a short time is absolutely incredible. I have learned an incredible amount of Spanish. I have learned how much a seemingly small action can affect someone’s life in unimaginable ways. I have learned to never be afraid of talking to someone. I have learned how far just confidence and a smile can take you. I have learned how similar people from all over the world are. And I have learned how generous people can be if you just ask for help. I will carry these lessons, and all the lessons I learn on this exchange, with me for the rest of my life; and they’ve already helped me grow as an individual.

    I would like to thank Rotary for providing me this opportunity, and my family and friends for their unfaltering support.


    To see my home page click HERE

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