Alisha, outbound to Spain

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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.