Alisha Ashford

Spain

Hometown: Lake Mary, Florida
School: Lake Mary
Sponsor District: 6980
Sponsor Club: Winter Park
Host District: 2203
Host Club: Cartagena

 

My Bio


Hello! My name is Alisha Ashford. I was born and raised in Orlando, Florida. I am the middle child of 3, but you could say I have two families because I have divorced parents. Including all of my step-siblings, I have 7 siblings. I am currently a junior at Lake Mary High, so I will be spending my senior year in Spain! I like to be involved in my high school, so I take part in Spanish Honor Society, Interact Club, and Art Appreciation Club. I am generally a very happy and outgoing person, and I try my best to find the joy in every day. Everyday, my main goal is to be as positive and kind as possible. Also, I consider myself an old soul. I collect vinyl and vintage books. In my free time, I love to read, or hang out with my friends in coffee shops. I am quite the coffee addict. I cannot wait to embark on my journey in Spain! I am looking forward to embracing the culture, learning Spanish, trying new things, meeting new people, visiting beautiful places, and the list really is endless. But needless to say, I am so excited to be an exchange student and I feel so grateful that Rotary has given me the opportunity to have this experience. This year, I hope to grow as a person, make new friends, and learn to say yes to every opportunity that comes my way.


The view from a rooftop terrace in Madrid.

The view from a rooftop terrace in Madrid.

I'm on top of the world

I'm on top of the world

A view from mar menor

A view from mar menor

Madrid with my awesome friends living in Murcia!

Madrid with my awesome friends living in Murcia!

My swimming pool for the year

My swimming pool for the year

My amazing friends in Madrid

My amazing friends in Madrid

A picnic in Parque del Retiro

A picnic in Parque del Retiro

We jumped!

We jumped!

Flamenco fans in Sevilla...very typical.

Flamenco fans in Sevilla...very typical.

Always admiring how beautiful my city is.

Always admiring how beautiful my city is.

We did a secret Santa gift exchange in my class. I love them so much

We did a secret Santa gift exchange in my class. I love them so much

Me and my girls in Sevilla!

Me and my girls in Sevilla!

My Spanish besties.

My Spanish besties.

Me and my friend Jules about to eat some Paella.

Me and my friend Jules about to eat some Paella.

Took my friend Nick from Canada to my favorite spot in my city where I always go for solitude.

Took my friend Nick from Canada to my favorite spot in my city where I always go for solitude.

I am so glad I got to spend Thanksgiving with the best of friends.

I am so glad I got to spend Thanksgiving with the best of friends.

Journals: Alisha – Spain 2016-17

  • Alisha, outbound to Spain

    Read more about Alisha and all her blogs

    As I write this, I have been in Spain for 4 and a half months. I have officially gotten past what is in my opinion the hardest part—the holidays. December was emotionally the most difficult part for me being away from my family during the holidays. But it’s a new year and I feel ready and back on track to experience my exchange to the fullest like I should.

    The following are excerpts taken from my blog from November 2016 to December 2016.

    November 2016
    I’ve never felt so on top of the world. There’s something so amazing about feeling so content in the midst of triumphs and adversities. What I mean by this is that on exchange, I’ve been experiencing some of the best moments of my life but at the same time some of the hardest I’ve ever known. I’m glad to be able to say that I haven’t taken a bit of this experience for granted. I feel so lucky to be able to experience everyday that passes here. Even the days where it feels like I’d give anything to be back with my friends and family in Florida, I continue to be in awe of all of this. I am 17 years old, living in Spain, making amazing friends from all over the world, speaking a different language, trying new things, growing so much as a person, and visiting stunning cities. What more could I ask for? I am living in a dream.

    So what exactly have I been up to? Well school is obviously a daily thing. School is definitely so much better now. I absolutely adore my Spanish friends here. They’re all so loving. In case anyone has been wondering what school is like here in Spain, it’s basically the total opposite of school in The States. I stay in the same class all day besides 2 “elective courses” which aren’t actually electives at all. There is no such thing as cooking class, pottery, drama, or anything like that at my school. The teachers move around rooms instead of the students. after the first 3 classes we have a break. It’s not like lunch in the U.S. There’s no lunchroom; we just stand outside and have a snack because everyone eats lunch at home after school. Also, there’s not much to class besides lectures. In almost all my classes there are no activities, worksheets, group projects, or anything like that. Just sitting, listening, and note taking. And for m e, counting all the objects in the room, day dreaming, trying my best to understand the lesson, etc.

    December 2016
    I see the 100 day mark as quite the milestone. I’ve already changed so much in ways I can’t even explain. I certainly am not the same as I was when I first arrived. So how am I feeling after being in a different country for this long?

    Well the answer to that is I feel normal. Strangely normal. That may seem uninteresting. At first thought, I believed the rush of it all was dead and gone. The excitement, the freshness, the awestruck feeling, sure that might be gone most of the time. However, there is a new rush. It’s the rush of normality in the midst of something that had once been so rare and extraordinary. I now feel able to say the words “I live in Spain” with complete honesty. Because I do. It took me a while to figure out what life here is. To realize I am not a student at Lake Mary High School, but instead at Instituto Jiménez de La Espada. To be able to say “I wanna go home” and not think of my home in Florida. To sadly not be in love with every detail of this country (that’s the honeymoon phase) but instead to appreciate the great things while noticing faults. To feel in a routine; wake up, school, buy bread at the bakery for my host mom, put the dishes away, ea t, siesta, get out of the house for a while, come home. To be able to talk to locals. To get to a point where I don’t feel confused half of the time. To have amazing days as well as really tough days. Because that’s normality. That’s life. 

    At first feeling “normal” scared me so badly. It’s almost like an adrenaline rush that faded off and the harsh reality hit me. That was my lowest point. I was suddenly feeling empty, more lost than I was at first, missing home, and getting angered very easily. But then it started to feel like a new rush.

    I feel now that I have a place here. I can speak to people. I feel a strong sense of independence. I finally feel like I can call Spain my home. 

  • Alisha, outbound to Spain

    Read more about Alisha and all her blogs

    These are excerpts taken from my blog from the past month and a half. ( alishaashford.wordpress.com )

    September 5th:
    " I got off the plane from a long and tiring day of travelling to find that my luggage had been lost in the Madrid airport. I was in Alicante. You would think that after the first possible bad thing happening to an exchange student happened to me I’d freak out, but I was just so happy to finally be off the plane and in Spain at last that I just let it roll off. I knew the airport would get it back to me…and they did two days later so all is well. Driving from the Alicante airport to San Javier where I would be staying with the youth exchange chairwoman for the first two days was quite the experience. My first time in a different country, my first time in the place I’d call home. Fighting the intense urge to sleep because of jetlag wasn’t as hard when I was just sitting in awe of a whole new world and such a beautiful country. I instantly noticed so many culture differences that I could definitely get used to; greeting everyone with a kiss on both cheeks, eating not just to eat but to spend time with the people you’re with, walking everywhere, open windows, friendly faces, I love it all. "

    September 12th:
    "My biggest revelation since coming here has been just living in the present. Most of the time when I’m here, I have no clue what’s planned for tomorrow or even the next hour. I used to be so future focused. Which I know can be a positive thing, but too much of that is so preventative of actually living fully. I have been asked to do and try so many things that I would normally never do for the sole reason of uncertainty. Lately becoming a so-called “yes person” has made my experience all the better. This piece of advice goes for not just people on exchange but just anyone who wants to live a fuller life in general; do things that make you uncomfortable. Those fleeting moments will be the best of your life. I’ve also eaten so many things that initially would gross me out, but I end up actually loving it. (Fully bodied shrimp, anchovies with the eyes and bones and all, etc.)"

    October 5th:
    "As of today I have been in Spain for a whole month. So much has happened in so little time, and the weeks go by in the blink of an eye. The past few weeks for me have been kind of up and down. At times I feel like my Spanish is really improving, and at other times I have no idea what’s going on. But the days where I am able to have full on conversations make all the confusing moments worth it. I started school this week too. My first week felt kind of rough. It’s overwhelming coming to a school where no one knows you or speaks your language and trying to understand what’s happening. But thankfully, everyone at my school was so helpful. They all made sure I went to the right class and tried to get to know me."

    October 17th:
    "There’s a point of exchange where most things become “normal.” I can’t pin point an exact moment or day when it happened for me, but I realized recently that I only share the highlights and the best moments. How could I not though? Of course I want to share with everyone all of the exciting things that are happening. I just want to make sure everyone knows that life as an exchange student is just as imperfect and tough as life for anyone else–except sometimes with challenges a bit more unique.
    Anyway, here are some updates. School has been a lot better. I have gotten sort of adjusted to the fact that I won’t actually learn for a while. Plus, I’m able to fill a lot of that class time with reading! I’m not sure if it’s just my school, but I’ve realized that classmates here are extremely helpful. Everyone from the start was so eager to make sure I had what I needed and that I made it through the day. I haven’t had to be alone at all and I’m so grateful for that.

    One word I can use to describe exchange besides amazing, is uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable when someone is speaking to you and you continue to nod and smile as if you understood, but really you didn’t. It’s uncomfortable when people have to repeat things to you several times just to explain something super simple. It’s uncomfortable feeling stupid in class when you know if the subject were being taught in English you’d be great at it. It’s uncomfortable being away from your family and friends. It’s uncomfortable having no familiar snacks or your favorite fast food places. It’s uncomfortable having so much to say yet only being able to say as much as a small child.
    However, don’t let this convince you that exchange hasn’t been one of the best decisions of my life, because it has. This is the craziest but most incredible journey anyone my age can embark on, and I feel lucky to be able to experience it all. Life begins when you step outside of your comfort zone."

    I write this on my 50th day in this incredible country. I am so in awe of the growth I've already had as a person here. Spain is nothing like I expected but more than I could ever want. I am already Improving so much with the language and I've gotten so see some beautiful cities with the best people in the world. I will forever be grateful for this experience and It's only the beginning. 

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