Pia Labalme is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for our Campus Reporter program. Pia comes to SYA from The Hotchkiss School (CT). Read more of her work throughout the year here.
In short, Cinco Dias taught me what the word immersive really means. Of course I knew the definition beforehand--after all, I had been living in Spain for five months at that point however, my Cinco Dias experience was truly a new level to my year abroad and my immersion into Spanish culture. That isn't to say that I haven't been connected or immersed here in Zaragoza. In fact, my time in this wonderful city has opened my eyes completely to the wonders, challenges, and adventures that accompany a year with SYA. However, five months into my year here, I'm comfortable. I have established a daily routine; I'm familiar with the school and incredibly close with my classmates and even feel now like a member of my host family. So, being thrown right into a strange family in Madrid for five days was loco! Just as I had thought the year was settling down into a smooth rhythm, Spain hit me with another surprise.
Little did I know as I got off the train in Madrid that I would be meeting someone who would soon become one of my best Spanish friends--someone who I would talk with for the months to come? Cinco Dias was unforgettable. To sum it up, here are some of the lessons I learned:
1. Appreciate the tranquility of SYA! Spanish schools, as you future SYAers will come to learn, are chaotic. They are a ton of fun, but a completely different learning environment from SYA, which we are so lucky to enjoy.. Let's just say there are many more lectures and a lot of memorization...
2. Don't get in the way of Spanish girls and their famosos! Walking along the main shopping street of Madrid, the Spanish girls we were with stopped dead in their tracks. Across the plaza they had laid eyes on three famous Instagram/YouTube boys they all worshipped. With little hesitation, they ran over begging them to take a picture with us because "their American friends wanted to". We had no idea who they were! But whether it's bonding over boys, or music, or books, it was a wonderful little window into the everyday culture of Spanish teenagers who are just like us.
3. EAT! I think this one goes without saying, but I'll say it anyways. No matter where you travel in life, the one key thing is to eat and in Spain that fundamental rule is no exception! For five days I ate with another family in another part of Spain with different mealtime customs and dishes. Though the food itself is incredible, the way that Spaniards value meals as a time of socializing and connecting with those around you is truly wonderful. I got to know another family that accepted me with open arms and loved hearing about my adventures this year. So, my advice is to always, always eat, especially with those around you who are interesting and open and loving.
So, to all future SYA Spain students and to anyone reading this, you can rest assured that Cinco Dias is an unforgettable and outstanding experience that adds immensely to your year in Spain. Of course, Zaragoza is home for me but it's nice to know that I have a second Spanish home now too.