One year ago, I never thought that I would spend the best week of my life abroad. Along with four friends, two girls who I had never met before, and our Spanish teacher, I travelled to Spain. I was fortunate enough to have a phenomenal Spanish instructor. Before leaving, she prepared us through various exercises. We had to practice describing objects, of which we did not know the name, with vocabulary we knew. At one point, we even attempted to steal articles from each other to experience theft comparable to that which occurs on the metro. Our actual trip started, of course, on a plane. It was my first plane ride. I was nervous to depart, yet anxious to arrive. I had no idea what was in store, and I was actually somewhat nervous for the family stay portion. The three components of the trip that impacted me most were the food, the history, and the people.
Authentic Spanish food is unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Unlike what is often served in America, the food I ate was fresh. It is easy to buy frozen peas or canned tomato sauce, yet they insist on eating quality food. Because of the close proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, fresh seafood is in abundance in Spain. On the last day with my Spanish family, we had what I would call a barbecue. My “father”, Joaquín, acquired a very large, circular pan. At first I was confused, but then he promptly added rice, crawfish, and saffron which gave it the most beautiful color. Upon completion, the paella was served to us and some close relatives. Food is always served in massive quantities. After a few plates of various foods, my family would finish off with a nice fruit. To make up for the abundance of food, Spaniards walk to almost any location necessary – sometimes even miles! Eating Spanish food for a week gave me a glimpse of the amazing Spanish tradition of fine cuisine.
Spanish architecture, art and landscape alike can be summed up in a few words: old and antique, yet beautiful and captivating as well as historical. In Segovia, we visited the aqueduct. This architectural feat gave me insight to the ingenuity of the engineers of the past. Before visiting Spain, I had no real appreciation for artwork. I was skeptical, yet open, to visiting Prado, the art museum. This really opened my eyes to an appreciable amount of history portrayed in the form of art. I learned so much about the cultural importance of the history of Spain through visiting sites and monuments, and from the family with which I stayed.
My favorite part about Spain was the people. The people in Spain are unbelievably nice. The first thing that stood out to me was oddly when I was taking a picture. Instead of rudely walking in front of me, the citizens either paused for me to finish or politely walked around me. This came as a real surprise. The friends I made in Spain are very open as well. I usually don’t tell people that I am a gymnast, but I decided to tell them. They were very intrigued and even asked me to “do an exhibition.” I ended up doing a few back flips during my stay. The people were very anxious to meet me, ask me questions, and get to know me. This may sound odd, but I actually think the language barrier made it more fun. Because of the friends I made, the things I experienced, and the delicious food I ate, and the rewarding challenge of practicing a second language, I made lifelong friends and memories I will surely never forget.
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