One Month In

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.

I can’t believe I’m currently living in Spain. Every day, I look around and see the majestic Pilar, or the beautiful tree lined street on my quick walk to school, and I remain always surprised by that fact that I’m here. In person. Living out my dreams.

Just after spending one month in Zaragoza, I have experienced a plethora of emotions. Just as I expected when leaving the US, it is not easy to live away from home and the securities that come with it. What I didn’t realize is how entirely possible it is to adjust my attention to living in the moment while here in Spain, instead of dwelling on what I’m missing at home. My host family’s been nothing but supportive, showing me all the nooks and crannies that Zaragoza possesses, and being completely willing to slow down their talking when I’m misunderstanding. I look forward to coming home every day, and that to me is important.

Just after we arrived in Spain, while I was sitting on the bus during the four hour drive from Madrid to Zaragoza, all that was on my mind was the excitement of reaching the destination that I was sure would hold so much and shape me into the person I’m becoming. I was surrounded by new classmates from all around the country, all bringing a completely different perspective into our conversations, and all holding different goals for the year ahead. I’ll never forget the enthusiasm and cheers as we dismounted the bus to first meet our host families. The amount of hugs, new faces, and tapas whirled that first weekend into a blur of excitement and jitters.

I’ve embraced a very spontaneous outlook while living abroad. While here, every day holds treasures that are impossible to anticipate. I decided one day to go to Zumba, and though I failed miserably at the moves, I had the time of my life listening to pounding Spanish reggaeton and recognizing all the mandatos spoken by the instructor. I regularly do my school work in a new cafe. With my steamy coffee that cost me only one euro, and the sounds of Spanish all around me, I am truly at peace. I prance through flea markets dotted around Zaragoza that have the most amazing fresh fruit, cheese, and little trinkets. My friends and I, almost every day, take walks around the city, soaking in our surroundings; completely open to getting lost. We stumbled upon a small concert during Las Fiestas del Pilar the other day, and spent hours simply dancing and listening.

Not only is passing time in Zaragoza always amazing, but the travelling I’ve taken part in both through school and with my host family has really widened my perception of Spain. We took an all school trip to Alquézar, and spent hours walking the cobblestone streets with lush mountains in the distance, and then hours hiking those very mountains later. The stars during the nighttime were stunning, and my friends and I simply watched them and chatted about our goals, fears, and everything in between, while listening to the soothing feels of Daniel Caesar. I went on a trip with family friends to Montfalcó, where we climbed the bridges connecting huge rocks together, so high up, with nothing but crystal waters below us. All 8 kids slept in a cozy room with bunk beds and giggled the night away with the light of the moon reflecting itself onto the lake right outside of our window.

Above anything else, I’ve found that there’s nothing more rewarding than holding a long conversation with a Spanish native. Whenever I’m out with my host mom, we stop every five minutes to talk to a friend walking the other way, or spontaneously grab a coffee with her old acquaintances. Days after our conversations, I’ve been able to recognize some of the people I chatted with while walking alone. One of the hardest parts about this month has been trying to communicate with my family and show them my personality with a substantial language barrier. I find that long conversations- with the goal of simply being long conversations- have aided my tongue immensely in warming up to Spanish, and let my personality show through more.

I’m learning that moving out of my comfort zone is helping me to grow. It most definitely feels awkward and uncomfortable to put myself out there linguistically and put myself into unfamiliar locations, but I’m willing to do it. There is no one way to live this experience- I must, and inevitably will, make it my own. To do that, I need to explore, speak, and enjoy some café along the way.

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