Abby D. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a Campus Storyteller. She comes to SYA from Milton Academy.
Before arriving at SYA, I convinced myself that the romance of my new life–the chocolate-covered churros, the steaming morning coffee, and the colorful charm of Calle Alfonso–would make it impossible to be homesick. I was wrong. My first couple of days at SYA were filled with complete and utter confusion–about how to open the tranvía doors, about where to find the exit in the Corte Inglés, and about how I had ended up in Spain with nine months of these challenges before me.
Then, after a week of juggling this confusion and uncertainty, I boarded a bus with the other SYA students to spend a night in Alquézar, a small mountain town north of Zaragoza. After arriving, we were given free time until dinner to explore the small, charming town.
Before long, five of us stumbled upon a small asphalt flat-top lined for soccer. The flat-top was nestled into the side of a hill–behind it, mountains dotted with ancient cream colored stone buildings stretched into the distance. The sun was just beginning to set, casting a hazy glow over everything. Luckily, one of us had a ball and we began to play a casual small-sided game, until, moments later, the sky opened up, drenching us in torrential rain.
Shocked, I looked at the people around me who I had known for less than a week, unsure of how they would feel about playing in the rain. They were all laughing, frantically removing their shoes so that they could continue playing on the slippery asphalt. I followed, putting my shoes and socks under a tree before running back to the court.
Over the next ten minutes, twenty more SYA students arrived one by one to join the game, soccer players and non-soccer players alike. Half an hour later, we had enough participants to field two eleven player teams and we had even gathered a handful of spectators. The game picked up intensity–we added goalies, cheers started erupting from the sidelines, and teachers gathered to watch under an awning. And then, in front of everyone, I swung my leg back to take a shot, and landed flat on my back.
It seems fitting that I took such a spectacular fall in that particular game. It speaks to the spontaneity of it all–from discovering the court, fielding two teams, attracting spectators, and then getting torrentially rained on. And it was precisely the game’s spontaneity that made it the number one table-topic that night at our hostel, post-hot showers and siestas, when we had finally gathered around three tables for a family-style dinner.
That night before I went to bed, I realized that for the first time since I had arrived, I wasn’t thinking anxiously about what tomorrow would bring, but rather marveling at what the present day had brought, basking in its magical, memorable spontaneity. Now I’ve realized that SYA is defined by moments like these–small, perspective-changing experiences that happen almost accidentally, maybe even without your realizing. In just a month I’ve learned to be open to anything (especially the spontaneous experiences that unfold almost every day), to seize the present moment, and, most importantly, to trust the process. Adapting to this new life is not always easy– I know there will be plenty of more times when I will fall flat on my back–but I also know that I have a new team of friends here in Spain to pull me back up. That soccer game in the rain was just what I needed to shift my perspective and more fully embrace my new life. I think of it now whenever I am faced with a difficult moment, and remind myself that on the other side of each new challenge lies an opportunity for deeper connection and personal growth that makes all the initial struggle worthwhile. Of course, a hot shower, a long siesta, and dinner with friends never hurts either.
- Campus Reporters
- SYA Spain