It just so happens that this past summer was my first trip abroad on a student exchange program to Spain. I was walking out of my school after the bell had rung and saw that I had missed a call on my phone. It was the scholarship program telling me I had received the scholarship to go to Spain.
I was so excited. This was the first time I had won or received something so big. For the next couple of months I was so cheerful whenever I thought about what my summer in Spain would be like.
All of my friends were so jealous of my experience to come. As the time grew closer I went to an orientation about what to expect. That’s only when I started to become sort of nervous about my upcoming trip.
I didn’t know what to expect. Would the family like me? Would I like the family? Would I even like Spain? The day of the trip finally came. I had spent all night packing trying to bring every little thing I could because I was staying for a month and a half.
I had three flights in front of me even before I arrived to Spain. I was exhausted by the time I arrived in Madrid. I spent the night in Madrid with the trip group.
Being in another country is a very remarkable experience. We walked around the city that night and I really took in everything it had to offer. The people, the food, the scenery, and the hospitality is almost completely different from America.
This was my first time out of the US and it was a pretty special first time. After I spent the night, I unfortunately I had to take a seven hour bus ride down to the city I was staying in. It was a pretty intimidating ride for me because EVERYONE spoke thick, fast spoken Spanish.
Three years of Spanish here did not even compare. Luckily though by the end I found someone who spoke a little English and could tell me where to get off. When I first saw my host family I didn’t expect them to look like they did.
I had an expectation of what they would be but they were totally different. They ended up being completely surprising and incredible in good and bad ways.
My host mother was for the most part really enjoyable for me. She took me a lot of places and was really accommodating to me. Sometimes though she was a little hard for me to deal with because some of our opinions and ways of doing things were different. But this was something I expected to happen. I was in a different country after all.
My host brothers who were six and seven were the most adorable little kids. It was really cute because they spoke fluent Spanish but were learning English. So when they tried to speak English to me I thought it was sweet. For the most part though I really experienced and explored Spain by myself.
During the days when the parents would work and the children were in school, I was allowed to walk around myself and discover the city I was in. I was right by the ocean so naturally I did visit the beach quite often. It took me a while to feel comfortable walking by myself in a city where one: they didn’t speak my language, and two: I didn’t know where I was going. I did get used to it though and now if I went back would be able to find my way with my eyes shut. I now know the town inside and out and made friends with a lot of the locals, too.
My trip unfortunately came to an end and I again took my seven hour bus ride up to Madrid, but this time feeling cultured, more mature, and confident. On the last night I reunited with the friends I had made in the program and we told each other stories about our summer for hours. Then feeling almost like natives of the country we walked around the streets of Madrid (this time alone) feeling like we could almost do anything. Leaving Spain for me was a bitter sweet experience, but I knew that because of this experience, this will open new doors to exciting and delightful adventures in the future. Oh, and by the way, I am now an expert in making gazpacho!
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