Elizabeth L. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from San Francisco University High School in California.
After a week full of goodbyes and various "lasts"—the last dinner at my favorite Thai restaurant, my last visit to the ocean, and a last sleepover with my friends, the actual departure went by surprisingly quickly. My mom and I flew to Boston and met the SYA group flight the next day. I checked in, said goodbye to my mom at security, got on the plane, got off in Madrid, and rode by bus the 3 hours to Zaragoza. While on the bus, I jotted down the landscape to calm my nerves: how the rolling red hills speckled with vineyards turned into rocky grey plateaus and arid, scrubby plains, which then in turn transitioned into vast fields of slender white windmills standing and spinning as though they were a meadow of enlarged flowers waving at our arrival. Everything that I've seen thus far of the Spanish countryside is absolutely beautiful.
Soon enough, we arrived in Zaragoza, and our teachers told us that we would be called off one by one to meet our families. I was second, so I didn't have much time to think about it, which was probably a good thing. My host mom, Flor, greeted me with two besos and a hug, and then her neighbors, who are also hosting an SYA student, drove us to the apartment. I then met the rest of the family, unpacked, and had an "early" dinner at 8:30.
When I saw what we were eating, I was surprised. "That looks like an omelet," I thought, "but it's dinner time!" It turns out one of the most common dishes here is "Tortilla de Patata," an egg and potato omelet, and that it is served not at breakfast but rather at lunch or dinner. At first it was a bit strange for me, but I've become accustomed to it, and it's now one of my favorite meals.
My family's apartment is ideally situated, near plenty of shops and cafes, as well as the Basilica de Pilar. It's in the old neighborhood of the city, which means that there is a lot of characteristically Spanish architecture and wrought-iron balconies, which I love. Every day, I walk 10 minutes to school, a ritual that I enjoy immensely. Morning after morning, I turn off of my street and am struck by the wide Calle Alfonso, lined with shops and partitioned with plant boxes, and morning after morning, it hits me freshly that I am walking to school in Europe.
It's now been a month since I arrived, and I can't decide if that sounds like too much or too little time. There are moments when I feel as though my life is entirely normal, while I'm doing math homework or making myself toast in my kitchen. Other moments, as I get gelato with friends after school or visit a small pueblo with my host family, it hits me that I am here, in this new life, miles and miles from home and how did that happen?! It can seem unbelievable that I'm here, but I'm so glad I am.