Savanah, outbound to Spain

Well, the journals are coming along a lot faster than I had anticipated. I want to believe this is happening because I am just so eager to put all my adventures and experiences into a well-crafted journal entry. However, the big motivator hit me about 20 minutes ago as I was browsing RYE Florida’s website. I have come to the startling realization that there is about to be a BRAND NEW set of outbounds, itching to find out when they can leave for their exchange.

This is totally scary seeing as how my exchange started two seconds ago and I feel like the end is getting closer and closer. It seems like only yesterday that I was nervously entering the interview rooms, waiting for that dreaded phone call to tell me my fate, and finally finding out where I would be studying for my year abroad. So, upcoming outbounds, I envy you. Because this next year will fly by, and soon you will be boarding those planes and entering your country knowing you h ave a full 10 months of awesomeness ahead of you. It is literally the greatest feeling ever.

So, even though time has NOT been on my side, I’m still enjoying every second in Spain. If you outbounds are anything like I was, you’re probably reading as many journals as possible to see what’s the what with the countries you chose on your application (just because you put certain countries on your application doesn’t mean you’ll be sent there. Spain wasn’t on my list but I couldn’t be happier. Just remember that Rotary knows you best and will place you were you will succeed). Anyway, here is to a fantastic 2 months in Spain, and even better ones to follow.

It is crazy to think of all I have accomplished in only two months. It’s hard to measure how well your language or cultural skills have improved, but I often look back upon my first weeks here and realize how much I have truly learned. A lot of the success has definitely come from school and the help of new friends and teachers. I am finally in a place where I can somewhat complete homework assignments, read aloud to the class when we’re reading in our textbooks, and converse with my friends about almost any topic; some more smoothly than others.

My English teacher has me do all the assignments in Spanish, so that is another way I can improve my writing and speaking skills. Over the past few weeks of school, we have done some pretty cool stuff; my favorite being our rafting field trip. My grade took a bus to a nearby city for the day, and went on a rafting trip down the river. It was freezing! But still the best field trip ever. We rode down waterfalls, and were pulling each other out of our rafts along the way. I feel like that in America, schools would never take kids on those types of trips. However, that is just one of the many differences between American school and school in Spain.

Another significant difference is the way people treat each other here. In America we have a huge problem with bullying and disrespect towards other people. However, I have noticed that all of the students here, whether they like a person or not, are never mean to them. Apart from that, the way students handle school work here is very different as well. In America, it isn’t very common for students to fail a year. If they do, the blame immediately goes towards the teacher. It is always something that is wrong with the teacher and how they didn’t do this or that. In Spain, the teacher comes in the room, teaches what needs to be taught, and that’s it. The student has the choice to listen and take notes to pass the exams, or fail and s imply repeat the year. Many of the people I know have repeated multiple years. Whether or not this is an as effective or more effective education system isn’t really the question. These are two completely different cultures that have found what works for them.

Other than school, I have also been able to figure out more little life hacks here in Spain. The public transportation system has been conquered (didn’t even get lost), do some shopping on my own (I mostly buy food tbh), and have been able to ask questions and converse more and more. Once you reach this point it is the greatest feeling ever. I hated the awkward phase where you are pretty much settled in, but your language still sucks so you can’t really do a whole lot by yourself. It is so nice to be able to go out without having a chaperone or translator by your side at all times. Yet another reason to practice your host language as much as possible before you leave!!!

I highly recommend any future outbounds to try and join some type of sports team or activity in Spain. It gives you another group of friends, and an opportunity to go to new places. I have been playing soccer for a team in my city and I absolutely love it. It is great exercise, and I love having the familiar feeling of a team family like I did back home. I recently went to the coolest town EVER for one of our games. It is a small city called Caravaca, about an hour and a half north of my home in Murcia. It is so incredibly old, and full of history and beautiful cathedrals. It was the site of one of the battles in the Crusades and just walking down the streets will take your breath away. There are so many places in Spain that are like this, and I only wish I could visit them all.