The Magic of Youth

Lili S. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Sidwell Friends in Washington, D.C.


Babysitting, and being around children in general, has always been incredibly healing for me. For the past couple of years, the best parts of my week have been three-hour zoo visits on Sunday with the three-year-old I babysit for, and Tuesday afternoons, in my school cafeteria, tutoring second graders from a local public school, helping them with homework, teaching them about democracy, and trying to keep them from running through the library screaming. One worry I had about taking the leap and moving to Spain was the idea of losing the kids from my neighborhood that I now consider extensions of my own family because I’ve spent so much time taking care of them. When the option to tutor Spanish kids in English for the year was given to us, I knew it was the perfect way to feel that connection again...and it was.

After the first time meeting Alba (4) and Hugo (2), I instantly felt connected to these kids, and spending an hour with them, whether it’s doing the ballerina puzzle that we do at the beginning of each time or dancing to Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus, spending time with them and introducing them to English quickly became the highlight of my week. Although we don’t usually get past colors, numbers, and verbs like “dance”, “spin”, and “jump”, we do usually end up laughing, playing, and lots of high five-ing.

Walking into Alba and Hugo’s house, after walking by the sun setting across the playground in front of their apartment building and hearing them scream “HI LILI!” through the intercom after I reach their building, and just being with little kids again make me realize how magical childhood is, and how important it is to protect that. I’m so happy that I get to spend time with these kids every week, and so lucky that I am starting to have another family here in Spain that I feel a part of, learn from, and spend time with.

This experience has made me realize just how important simply being around a different language can be. Even though we are not even close to being able to have a conversation in English (granted, Hugo cannot have a conversation in Spanish yet either), after just eight weeks it is so clear that the kids are understanding me more and more. It’s a similar set-up to what we are doing here at SYA, how we are thrown into a place and exposed to a new language because it has engulfed us; everything around us is Spanish. Of course, it still takes time to learn a language this way, but constantly hearing a language, even if you aren’t completely listening or don’t completely understand, can still affect your ability to be able to speak and understand a language. The overlapping of us experiencing this immersion while creating that same environment for people of the next generation is another one of the many once-in-a-lifetime experiences that come with being a part of SYA.

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