Ellis C. was a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. He came to SYA from St. Paul's School in New Hampshire.
Through the entirety of this year, I’ve just gone and gone and gone, trying to take in every last drop of opportunity and experience in this place. But I’ve never really just sat and enjoyed it. Although each passing day brought a new AP or subject test, studying for either or both, finishing Capstone work, and tying together all the loose ends I still had left from the year, I began to take a general, elongated breath – reflecting on everything this year has been to me.
SYA is an amazing idea – but it’s the people that make SYA unique and bring it to life. The students, teachers, administrators, families and friends bring to it the distinct voices that make it what we know it to be. I feel incredibly blessed that my voice was one that was able to shape the course of that half-floor school, through lo bueno y lo malo during this year. It’s a blank slate, wiped clean year after year, ready for the next piece of art to inhabit it. For example, I wanted to take advantage of being abroad to further my love for international relations by partaking in Model United Nations. Many people, seeing SYA didn’t already have one, would have moved on to their next passion. But three friends and I, empowered by SYA, set out to bring the change we wanted to see, developed the curriculum and planned the trips that built an organization of about a quarter of the grade and won competitions in Amsterdam and Zurich. When race issues flared up, I felt empowered to work on creating students of color group meetings that unpacked such complex topics and how they manifested themselves in Spain. I tutored a student in English, gave back by mentoring young bereaved refugee kids at a local foundation, participated in holiday food drives, took a hip-hop class and a cooking class – all while studying with a typical high school curriculum. If anything, I had the freedom to make of this year what I wanted to make of it.
And that doesn’t even begin to include the bonds I’ve made across this country, starting with my host family. Gabi, Joaquin and Jorge have given me more than a bed in their home but a life inside of theirs, with Gabi supporting me in a day-to-day maternal way that I had almost forgotten by being at boarding school. I enjoy the wealth of knowledge I learn from my teachers, and I’ll especially miss Reina Ángeles’ quips and Álvaro’s trivia. Zaragoza has become yet another one of my homes, feeling as comfortable here as I do in Detroit and Concord.
I have learned how to travel, rather than just visit, maximizing my visits to all but five of the autonomous communities of Spain (Cantabria, Asturias, Galicia, Ceuta & Melilla – we shall meet again), and experienced Europe and Africa in epic Christmas and Spring Break trips. And as though all this weren’t already enough, I learned Spanish to an extent I never thought possible. At SYA, you live your language to the point of exhaustion, but the exhaustion is how I realize how far I’ve come. When I came to Spain, I understood Spanish marginally, despite having studied since second grade. As I leave Spain, por favor, háblame en español, para que no lo pierda.
As I leave Spain. The sentence itself is revolutionary in that I struggle to come to terms with it. To channel my inner Jackie Kennedy, “there were times when I never wanted to be in this house. Now I can’t seem to leave.” There have been hard times, but each passing day was uplifted by the unimaginable friendships I made this year. The sixty-eight of us share something unique and special: a School Year Abroad. We have borne witness to history and herstory, lifted each other up when the going got tough, ebbed and flowed through our own Río Ebros as we experienced the internal equivalent of four years of high school life smashed into one. It was truly one moment in time, un momento en el tiempo, where we learned more about ourselves than any other year of our adolescence. I can’t point to a singular moment of a switch-up for me, but I have seen it in friends of mine throughout this year and am sure of continuing discoveries as we move into our summers and junior or senior years of high school or freshman years of college. For me, I leave with a strengthened sense of self, the decider of my own life. I have learned here to never stop fighting for what I believe in, never give up, and never do anything that doesn’t lift me up. It’s not a bad thing to fight when you’re fighting the good fight, and I’m convinced that mine has only just begun. Although it’s hard to see into the future beyond our last week here, I am confident that the decisions and actions I make throughout my life will forevermore be rooted in the lessons I learned in Spain. At SYA.
It has definitely been one of the most interesting years of my life. I don’t know if there is really any word that describes it – and to try to simplify it down to one would only cheapen the experience anyways. But know that it does exist, this life that I have managed to lead in the last nine months. And if you are willing and able to experience it, it is one that will shape you forever and ever. This blog, and the seven that came before it, were attempts to memorialize my experience, and how it felt for me. I hope you have enjoyed reading them this year as much as I have enjoyed writing them. And to everyone across the world who made this experience what it was, thank you. Words can never express how you’ve touched my life in your own little way.
Yes, we’ve lived history.
Yes, a new familia was gained.
Yes, Mariah will continue to whistle me awake, along with some new Latin flavors.
Yes, I am el viajero incansable, por siempre y para siempre.
And yes, this was one moment in time that can’t be truly taken from here in anything but my mind, body and soul. But I will always remember how it was one moment in time that was anything but forgettable.
Hasta el otro lado.
Ellis Clark ES’18
- Campus Reporters
- SYA Spain