Being in Spain is nothing less than a dream come true but also nothing like I imagined. The rest of the world apparently has a joke about Americans not knowing geography or not knowing anything about anything really other than what goes on in the United States. When I chose the countries I wanted to go to I picked nothing but Spanish countries, (wow, how weird maybe she wants to learn Spanish?).
Although this may be a little late for the 20-21 future outbounds, I want everyone to know that is reading this that has the idea of going on exchange, language is not the main reason for exchange. Although extremely important.
Back to my non-geographical self point, believe it or not how embarrassing this is, Spain was my number one country and I didn't even know how to point it out on a map at the first orientation. I picked Spain but do you know what Catalonia is? If you're anything like me, you would say no. Before exchange everyone told me wow, Spain is like the motherland for Spanish you're going to come back so fluent. Catalonia is a section of Spain that includes Barcelona wanting independence from Spain so much my 3rd week here the teachers and students didn’t even show up for school, yeah imagine no language knowing me all confused because not only is Catalonia really strong about their independence and government, they also do not speak Spanish… sad day for me. So a person who has been there tip number one: do not go somewhere only for language and know something about the countries you pick including studying the regional languages because no matter how many times I was warned, you never think it's going to be you.
Do not get me wrong, I am still having the year of my life and everyone here does know Spanish because they have to if they want to travel to the rest of Spain. Catalonia is just about the only place people in the world speak Catalan so there are not a ton of movies in Catalan which means all movies are watched in Spanish which basically means I am in the superior place for exchange and able to learn two languages. B)
Yes I am focusing a ton on language for me because it was a big reason why I went on exchange. One of my favorite stories was my first host family, every day after school my host mom asked me what is one word I learned at school, just one. All day I sit through classes i do not understand and try to translate as much as possible. I did not know one word in Catalan before I got here and today being my 104th day in Catalonia, I now can understand basic conversations in Catalan, I just can't respond back yet. Well that day with my host mom, the one word I learned was “yo tinc” which in Spanish is “yo tengo” which means I have. Later that day, host mom and I were about to leave the house but she couldn't find her phone. Everyone in the house was looking for it so when she found it she screamed “yo tinc!” so host dad would know. I said “she has it, wow I have it”. Host mom looked at me so weird and asked what. When I explained we squealed and did a victory dance and it was so cute.
On exchange I have done things I have never and could never do in Florida, like catching a train to go over an hour away with friends just to go shopping for the day. Hike a mountain with my host family just because it's their favorite hobby. Visiting landmarks like Saint George, a church in the center a Catalonia and you can see all the cities together. Getting a Christmas present from my host family to go to Paris for three days with my host sister. Do you know how much going to Paris would be from the US? Expensive.
The holidays were different being with another family but it was the best experience. Catalonia has so many traditions for Christmas that even the rest of Spain doesn't have. The children do not believe in Santa, they believe in tio. Which happens to be this piece of wood with a face and legs that you will find in every house. Starting the 13th of December you have to leave him food at night and in the morning he will have eaten it. If you don't feed tio, you don't get presents. They also have a three kings parade, a white king, a black king and a blonde king. Representing Asia, Europe and Africa. My host mom told me “there wasn't an American king because America wasn't discovered yet” and it was so cute. My host dad is actually the white king for my town and I got to see them glue facial hair all over him.
Even with everything I didn't expect, I find things everyday that I think Spain was the perfect place picked for me and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else on exchange.
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