Felíz Cumple

Meredith M. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Milton Academy in Massachusetts.

The first couple of birthdays we celebrated together at SYA were in early September. The newness of the city was exciting, and although we barely knew each other, we decided we would all celebrate these milestones together. The weather was warm, and we sang feliz cumpleaños as we cut open a birthday cake from the nearby Corte Ingles. Sitting cross legged in a circle, we laughed and played music as we ate pieces of cake with our hands. Ever since then, this has become the ‘birthday tradition’ at SYA. 

As February approached, I looked forward to celebrating the birthdays of several of my friends as well as my own. A part of me, however, worried that spending my birthday away from home would be bittersweet. I didn’t know if the day would feel different without my family or if turning 17 without them would make me sad. But I reassured myself that my birthday in Zaragoza with my host family and SYA friends would be the most special birthday yet. And I was so right. 

The day before my birthday, my host mom called me down to the basement. She told me that she and my host dad needed help with something, as she struggled to hide the smile in her eyes. I obediently followed her down the stairs, my host dad and host sister right behind me. At the time, I didn’t suspect a thing, although as I look back on it, I should have noticed their secretive smiles and all of the hushed conversations that morning. At the bottom of the stairs my host mom swung open the door, and my heart leapt through my chest as I was overcome by the screams of “¡¡SORPRESA!!”. For a second, I couldn’t move - I was so shocked that I could not form words. About 15 of my friends were standing in my basement that had been fully decorated just for me. As I turned to hug my host parents and sister, I noticed tears in their eyes. My heart filled with gratitude and love. 

The evening was full of good food, laughter, and lots of “Spanglish.” I spent the rest of the night in a state of shock - I couldn’t believe that my host family would do something so kind for me. In that moment, I realized that I had become a true part of the family, and nothing was a better birthday gift than that. 

The next day, I spent the afternoon eating Corte Ingles cake without utensils, playing music from the speaker, and laying on my backpack in Parque Grande, surrounded by my SYA friends. As the sun warmed the grass around us, I realized how much I had to be grateful for. Here in Zaragoza, I have made my own life. I have formed relationships with my host family and friends that I know will last forever. It now seems  so incomprehensible to me that I ever feared that this birthday wouldn’t be like the others before - it was so clearly the best cumpleaños I have ever experienced. <3  

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