Put On Your Red Shoes and Dance the Blues

Madeline S. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a Campus Storytelller. She comes to SYA from St. Paul's School.

Through sleepy hazy and half-open eyes, I bumble around my room before stumbling down the hallway of my apartment. It's not early, far from. It's nearly two in the afternoon on a Saturday. The sun is reaching its peak, basking the dry earth in light in contrast with my room with its closed blinds. When I open my door, light rushes in from the open windows. The smell of the sky is brought in from outside, and a calming rush of lavender wafts by from the plant which sits on the dining table. Even in Spain, I haven’t been able to kick my habit of sleeping in late. It is around lunch time and by this point, a few weeks into our adventures in Spain, I have managed to adjust to the later eating times. My host parents greet me from where they have been working on lunch. I mumble back some broken Spanish, it's far too early in the afternoon to be speaking, much less in a language I’m not fluent in. Despite my inability to speak, my host parents only laugh. The family I am staying with seems to have infinite amounts of patience with my Spanish. Poco a poco my host mother repeats every time I get flustered; unable to conjugate a verb. 

An SYA Spain high school student smiles while standing outside with her host mother, sister, and father.

We are sitting at the dining table in the kitchen. The TV is on in the other room, my host sister is talking about a concert she went to and a drama about her friend. We hear a shout from the balcony: “How are you?” It's the neighbors. Our building has a balcony that faces all of the other apartment buildings. There is a beautiful sense of community as my host parents ask how everyone is. Shouting from one balcony to the other across the great divide between the apartments. Their voices echo, bouncing off of the brick walls. Everyone in my building knows each other. Walking through the hallways or standing on the balcony, my host parents are always saying hello. I think it is beautiful that everyone is so close.

While we eat, a commercial comes on the TV and I see my host sister's eyes light up. Immediately she starts singing along, whipping her head towards her mother who laughs at her. My host father joins my sister from where he stands by the sink. The sound of techno-pop is filling the room and the bass thuds through the apartment as the artist belts out Spanish. My host mother's voice joins her husband and daughter as they all sing along to the cheesy commercial pop song. I’m sitting at the dining table just smiling. Moving across the world has not been easy. I’ve left behind my family and everything that I was so accustomed to. And yet, even though I am in this new country so far away from home, at that moment, I felt a sense of belonging, a feeling of home. Surrounded by these people who have so graciously allowed me to be a part of their family. My host sister takes my hands and spins me around the

An SYA Spain high school student sits smiling facing the camera at a table with her host family.

kitchen. We laugh and she sings louder. Despite moving so far away, to this unfamiliar land and culture, I feel so far from alone. Spinning around the kitchen with my host sister I realize that I am going to be okay. At that moment, any doubts I had were erased. Yes, I do not doubt that there will be times when I struggle but I have a wonderful family and community here to support me through it. As I spun around the kitchen to that stupidly catchy song, I smiled. This is going to be a wonderful year!

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