Rachel, outbound to Spain

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Today marks two weeks that I have been living in the beautiful town of Caldes de Montbui. To give you an idea of where Caldes is, I am a 30 minute bus ride from the city area of Barcelona. In the short two weeks since I’ve arrived, I have visited the city twice, been to the beach, gone to my inbound orientation in Madrid and gone through a week of school. I have this internal feeling that I have been sent to the most perfect place for me, I feel so blessed to be here on exchange. 

So far I haven’t experienced a lot of culture shock. Some differences between Florida and Spain are the school system, greeting customs, the eating schedule and how we get from place to place. In Spain, the teachers move from class to class and you stay with the same people the whole day. My school starts at 8:00 h and ends at 14:30 h, the classes are change from day to day and they are an hour each. I am enrolled in the year primer bachillerato and I am taking the science “route”. All the kids in my classes take school very seriously and all of their notes are perfect. It is a nice feeling to be surrounded by people who take their education so seriously, a bit of a change for me if I’m honest. Here there is no dress code, people come to school in crop tops and there are no problems. In my school the students call their teachers by their first names but they have the utmost respect for their teachers. When you greet someone here even if you don’t know th em you give each other two kisses, one on each cheek. This isn’t very “shocking” to me because I have grown up in a hispanic family and I lived in Miami for 7 years of my life where that is a common greeting. Personally, I prefer the greeting here because it shows how open the culture and people are. I eat breakfast whenever I wake up and that consists of an espresso and fruit or cereal. At school we eat a sandwich (un bocadillo) at our 11:00-11:30 h break, when I get home at 14:45 h I eat my “real” lunch and then I eat dinner at around 21:00 h. I am used to eating a late dinner because in the US my family eats around 20:30 h. Walking and public transportation are the most common forms of transportation here, I love it, I have lost about 6 pounds mainly due to walking. 

There were four things I really hoped to get on my exchange; an older sister, to live near or in a big city, to be close to the beach and to get an amazing family. I got everything I hoped for. I have the coolest family and older sister, I am 30 minutes from the beach and the city of Barcelona. There was only one thing I hoped that I didn’t get for my exchange and that was to be sent to Catalunya.. In the region of Catalunya, they speak Catalan which is very different than Spanish. Now I see it as a blessing that I have been sent here, I love Catalunya. Before coming to Spain I could understand a lot of Spanish but I had never actually conversed in the language. Everyone in my immediate family in the US is fluent in Spanish but we don’t speak Spanish at home. Typically when I visit my father’s parents in Miami they speak to me in Spanish but I reply in English. When I arrived by the second day I could have full conversations in Spanish and understand 95% of everythi ng that is said in Spanish, I think that it was a bit instinctual. Most people here converse in Catalan but everyone knows Spanish. My friends and family usually speak in Spanish around me so I understand. In school I take 4 classes; English, Spanish, physics and physical education. My physics teacher teaches the class in Spanish just for me and the other 3 are self explanatory. If someone speaks to me in Catalan I just tell them that I don’t understand and that I speak Spanish. There is a distinct difference between Spanish and Catalan. I am really excited to learn Catalan because it’s a challenge. 

So far everything is going great. I am keeping really busy. I have an amazing family, friends and I love where I live. I want to thank everyone who helped make this possible for me, including Rotary and my family.. Besos de Catalunya :*