The Kids Turned Out Fine

 

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

One of the things I was most excited about when coming to Zaragoza was the abundance of extracurricular activities that students can take part in. Before arriving in Spain, I had read through a ton of the student blogs and had already formed a plan about what I wanted to do when I was here. So, when I was finally given the chance to choose in September, I immediately selected “cross,” which translates to cross country in English. A few days later, Angeles, SYA Spain’s activities coordinator, helped another SYA student and me meet some coaches at a local running club. Thankfully, the coaches immediately welcomed us and included us in the practices. On the first day, we were given a map of a park where the team practices and we were off!

The next day, we finally found our way to the meeting spot and met the team. The coach had us both introduce ourselves and I was extremely embarrassed. My accent is obviously not perfect so I was worried that the older kids would just make fun of me. I was also worried that the other SYA student and I would not be accepted into the team. However, the Spanish kids were all super friendly and interested in learning more about us. Now, in November, I feel completely comfortable running and even hanging out with the kids on the team. Also, I will compete as a member of the team in a race in a few weekends and I have become good friends with the other older boys on the team. Running in the cool fall breeze in Zaragoza and learning Spanish from kids my age definitely makes up for the brutally sore legs. 

However, cross country was not the only extra-curricular that I signed up during the first week of school. I also signed up for an exchange program with a local school. This program allows SYA students to host a local Spanish kid at our school for one day, and then to go to the Spanish school the next. I was one of the first students to be able to take part in this program so on the third Monday in October, I met Jorge. He came to all of my classes at SYA and he really enjoyed speaking and learning English in my math and English classes. Also, he found our classes in Spanish very interesting, as we are learning about certain parts of Spanish history and culture that even natives find intriguing. I think he might have even learned a few new things about his own country! The next day, I had to wake up a little bit earlier and take the tranvía all the way across the city to the Romareda. I met Jorge at the entrance to his school, and we walked together to his first period class. It was extremely awkward at first as none of Jorge’s classmates knew who I was or what I was doing there. Furthermore, Jorge’s first two classes were Spanish literature and technical drawing, two classes where I had no idea what was happening. I was still super disoriented after these first two classes and none of the kids really seemed to want to talk to me. I felt very out of place and I wasn’t sure if this experience was going to be a success after all.

However, Jorge’s third class was English. In this class, the tables turned. No longer was I the one struggling to speak, but instead the Spanish kids felt uncomfortable and embarrassed. After we read a short passage in English, the kids had a chance to ask me questions. They asked me all about the USA and how my homeschool works. Thanks to this class, the kids seemed to begin to understand that I was just a normal kid, and that it was just the language that created a small barrier between us. Afterwards, during recess, all of the kids wanted to talk to me much more in Spanish and I even made some new friends. Although I only spent one day at the school, some of the kids gave me their phone numbers and I am hoping to spend more time with Jorge and his friends in the future.  

Overall, my extra-curricular activities have been a lot of fun and they have enabled me to meet Spanish kids my age and make new friends. What I have learned through my running team and the visit to Jorge’s school is that I have to put myself in awkward and uncomfortable situations in order to make the most of my time here. Although I am always nervous before I jump into these new activities and I often convince myself that the Spanish kids won't understand or accept me, after a few hours or maybe even a few days, the people here just begin to treat you like anyone else and the language and cultural barriers quickly disappear.  

My advice to future SYA students is to jump in as often and as soon as possible. Don't waste your time worrying about what might happen - just do what interests you!

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