Written in Bend, Oregon on March 11th, 2018
“Here there are no toilets, we pee in the streets”, says my Spanish host sister at 4 a.m. while we were at a weekend fiesta. Most of my days in Spain went exactly like that…unexpectedly.
This summer I spent three weeks living in a small town outside of Madrid with the Cuenca Blancos, and it was an experience I will never forget.
I had always been mature and independent for my age–many people said I was full of confidence–but those three weeks truly tested my capabilities.
Meeting my host family for the first time was overwhelming; the language barrier was immediately apparent. My host mom, Irene, told me I could take a nap, which after fifteen hours of travel, sounded amazing. However, sitting in my room, exhausted, I began to doubt myself. Before I fell asleep, I texted my own mom saying I was not going to be able to live here, because I felt like I was drowning in isolation. She assured me that I was going to be fine, and reminded me that I made a commitment that I had to stick to, a value my parents instilled in me my whole life.
Before going to Spain, I was the type of person who loved routines and to be in control; I liked to stay in my comfort zone because that’s where I felt safe and secure. Going abroad to a country where you do not know anyone and do not fluently speak the language is extremely far out of my comfort zone. This begs the question, “Why would this girl go abroad?” And in all honesty, I think I initially went to see another country.
I clearly remember the day my host family took me to an amusement park. Prior to this trip, I had never been on a roller coaster, and because of my lack of Spanish, I was unable to say, “I am terrified right now!” I just had to get on and go for the ride. I think this event is a perfect analogy for my experience abroad; I had to face the unknown. In taking chances, I learned that I am more courageous than I thought, and that instead of rigid control,
enjoyedthrive on spontaneity.
I fear that without such a drastic change, it may have taken me forever to slowly creep out of my safety bubble that I had created for myself. The greatest lesson of all? By going to Spain I was taken thousands of miles away from comfort,
and it showed me that I will be okay without control and familiarity.
This experience prepared me for my next step in life, college. I was able to learn about myself without the influence of those I hold close. However, what may be even more significant, is my newfound excitement with the unknown, and the process of growth and change. I hope my Spanish experience transcends those three weeks and will continue to teach me things about myself. Striving to grow and better myself is a constant goal that I have, and I know that I have my time in Spain to thank for that.