Eleanor's Day in the Life

Eleanor L. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Germantown Friends School in Pennsylvania.

My average day in Spain always begins with a sweet mandarina and “buenos días” from my host dad sitting at his desk. The mornings are never particularly rushed, as my host sister’s and my schedules perfectly complement each other: I wake up when she’s in the bathroom, she leaves the bathroom when I’m ready to enter, and we both end up in the kitchen to eat around 8:00. It’s an unpronounced miracle. The “que pases buen día” from my host dad whooshes me out the door into the windy city outside, and the “elevator lady,” whose name I have yet to learn, holds the door open for me in our apartment building’s lobby. My five-minute walk to school is easy, and once I reach the door of SYA, I see students flocking in at varying speeds from various points of the city.

The school day starts at 8:30, beginning with two 50-minute-long periods. First on the docket is Spanish Literature, a class in which we’re currently writing short stories set in the 1920’s, and constructing a paper about a book we’ve selected to read with a partner. The book my classmate and I chose, Lazarillo de Tormes, is difficult and dense, but, as the first picaresque novel, is a classic piece of Spanish literature.

Next, I make my way to AP Calculus. We call our teacher Matt Lisa, who’s in his classroom at Phillips Academy in the U.S., and project him on the board. We form groups, each of which is connected to the system through the video chat application Zoom, so that Matt can help us in individual work. This set-up didn’t take much time to get used to, and Matt makes the class run just as smoothly as if he were there in person.

The third period of my day is always descanso: a 35-minute break during which there is no class. I usually take this time to grab a coffee with my friends at Criollo, a cozy cafe located around the corner from SYA. This is a popular spot so it’s always hectic, but nothing beats its steamy café con leche and tostada con mantequilla y marmalade. The order rolls off my tongue with ease now, and the baristas often know what I want before I even get the chance to say it. One of them, named Lennie, loves practicing her English with me.

After descanso, I head back to school and to Sociology class. Sociología takes up two periods, mainly to ensure sufficient time to go into the streets to apply what we’ve been learning in class. One of my favorite topics we’ve discussed with strangers was immigration in Spain. One of our questions was: Do you think there is a difference between “inmigrante” and “extranjero”?, which yielded really interesting responses, especially since it was posed by us as foreigners ourselves.

Next is Prensa, my journalism class. This class includes visits from representatives of every principal political party in Spain, and student-led debates on chosen topics. The culmination of our year is the publishing of our school’s newspaper: El Guiño.

Lunch comes next, from 1:30 to 2:40. At SYA, we decide between four local restaurants: Memel, which offers traditional Spanish food; Rinconete, the fixed meal so it’s always a surprise; Fray Juan, the most delicious bocadillo campero you’ll ever find; and Jalos, my personal favorite, with amazing cochinita pibil tacos.

My last two periods are English and AP Spanish. Our English teacher designed the curriculum very purposefully, so that we are reading books about self-identity and culture that reflect the unique and changing lives we’re living abroad. The book we are currently reading is Sing, Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward.

In AP Spanish, we talk about everything from grammar to local festivals, and do individual projects about self-selected topics. We focus our conversations on what is currently happening in the news: on March 8th, we discussed el feminismo and el machismo as it was International Women’s Day. We also commonly use our host families as a helpful resource for homework.

Today, after the school day ended at 4:30, I volunteered at an institute where kids in homes with working parents or parents who are unable to watch them come to do their homework. The kids tend to be immigrants who the Institute has supported for many years, and though they can be raucous at times, they are always grinning and happy to be there.

Once I get home after my long day, I have dinner with my host family. We sit around the table, talking about our days, and soaking up the leftover juices from the meal with pan de maíz already doused in olive-oil. I go to bed with a full stomach and a tired brain, eager to repeat again tomorrow!

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