Ceci M. is currently a senior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Texas.
I recently chatted with a student who goes to the same college I’ll be attending in the fall. He graduated from SYA in 2019. A friend passed his contact information to me and I was excited to talk to someone about college who I figured already had quite a bit in common with me–there aren’t too many people who choose to spend a year of high school in Spain. During the Facetime call I commented on the Spanish flag hanging in his dorm room. We immediately connected over the best spots near Paseo de Independencia, the deliciousness of tapas from Champi, and the adventure of living with a Spanish host family. He told me about his social and academic life in college. After a gap year teaching English in Latin America, he is having a great freshman year, taking a class on crime in Colombia, volunteering at a center helping immigrants accustom to a new country and to obtain citizenship, and making friends with kids from all over the Spanish speaking world. I hoped for a similar trajectory for my own life and knew that these opportunities were only a few of the infinite that spending a year in Spain would facilitate. I felt inspired to deepen my relationships with my friends at SYA, taking advantage of the rare connection we share as American high school students in Spain. I was motivated to soak up every random aspect of life in Zaragoza, from rides on the tranvía to sobremesas with my host family. I have a month left here, and I am more enthusiastic than ever about making every day memorable. I know that next year, I’ll miss every detail, down to the doo doo dee doo of the tranvía stop announcements.
A recent field trip made me especially grateful for my memories and friends here. We visited Ejea de los Caballos, a small town in the province of Zaragoza, where we took a tour of the town and the beehives. We learned about bees and how honey is made. One girl got stung seven times, but the rest of us had a great time. We took advantage of the nice weather and ate lunch picnic-style in the park. My friends and I did handstands unsuccessfully. On the bus home, a friend and I talked about all the places we’ve seen in Spain, and how lucky we are to have been able to make memories this year in places some Spaniards have never even heard of.
Back in Zaragoza that afternoon, several of us celebrated my friend’s birthday. We had lemonade at a cafe and then sat in Parque de los Sitios–a favorite spot I will miss. We wanted to ride the carousel, still active from El Día de San Jorge, past Saturday. It was closed, and we could relate to the toddler who tried to shimmy under the fence to ride on the carousel.
I went home, buzzing from a day of fun social interactions and enjoying my walk alone. This feeling has been a theme throughout the year. I’ve become more present with others and at the same time, more comfortable with myself. My excitement to spend time with friends and family–biological and chosen–has absorbed any social anxiety I struggled with before. I’ve realized my favorite Spanish word, after much deliberation: ensimismada. The word directly translates to “in oneself,” but is closer to “engrossed” or “lost in one’s own thoughts.” I feel ensimismada in the rare alone time I have here–walking home, falling asleep, washing my hair–reflecting on everything that still feels new here and everything that now feels familiar. My interactions with others, the places I go, and everything I see and do in a day, keeps me present and energizes me, and my alone time is all the more rich. After this year, the feeling ensimismada has taken on new meaning–it’s the quality of alone time informed by the excitement of everyday life. Next year, when I am yet again familiarizing myself with new places and faces, I want to take refuge in this feeling, knowing that even the most mundane experiences can be sources of inspiration and connection with others.
- Campus Reporters
- SYA Spain