My Experience in Spain
On September 15th 2008 I stepped onto the plane, to travel to Zaragoza in Spain as part of EIL's Study abroad project. I was to stay with a family for 4.5 months. When the plane was about to land, I started to panic, wondering if I had done a stupid thing, but when I met up with the family, a man, his wife, and a german girl who was also there for 4.5 months, I realised that I hadn't and this could be one of the best experiences of my life. By the time that I was back at the house, myself and Jenni (the german girl) were best friends. We chose our rooms, and unpacked our things, then went to have la cena - the evening meal.
The next morning we got up and got ready for school, and then we were joined by one of the teachers in our school, who brought us to the school and sorted out our classes. Everyone was very welcoming, and very interested in me, because i spoke english. Although i found them difficult to understand for the first month or so, they were very patient. I took extra spanish classes in the school, to help improve my spanish.
I thought that i would be very homesick, but after about a week, i settled into my new spanish life. Everyday myself and Jenni got up, got washed and dressed, had a breakfast of magdelenas - muffins, and cola-cao or tea, then left for school. School was 8.30am until 2.20pm. Classes lasted 50 minutes, and between each class we had a 5 minute break. After the 3rd class we had a half an hour break. When we returned home we had la comida - dinner, and then we went to our rooms to do homework, write letters etc. We would then talk to our host parents, go on the internet, or go to dancing/music lessons. After that we had la cena, and we went to bed about 11pm.
On the weekends we would get up late around 1 or 2, and on Saturdays we helped clean the house. Sometimes I would cook dinner, something irish. Then Jenni and I would go into the City, to go shopping. Around 7 or 8 we went out to bars with friends. We had to be home between midnight and 1am.
Soon we had a meeting with all the other exchange students, and I got to meet many students from other cultures, like Germany, Norway, Holland, and Denmark. I was so lucky to meet them, because they were other people in the same boat as me, like Jenni, and if I was having any problems like missing home, I could talk to them about them.
One of my favorite memories of Spain was going to Madrid with GetReady - the partner organisation in Spain. From Zaragoza 5 of us went - 4 Germans and myself! We were 17 in total, 12 Germans, Me, a Norwegian, a Dutch girl, a Swedish boy, and a Serbian. It was a great bonding trip, and I learnt some german while i was there! On the day we arrived, we went on a tour bus around Madrid, went out to eat, and returned to the hotel to relax. The next day we went to Toledo, went out to eat, and then we went out for the night. On Monday we had to return to Zaragoza, but first we got to see some of the famous gardens in Madrid. We went to see the Palace, but sadly it was closed. On the bus back we met with some american students who were also studying in Zaragoza on an exchange, who went to a special school for american students.
In many ways the trip was very difficult, for example I was away from home, from everything I was used to, different food, different buildings, different people and most most of all different language. However, within a week speaking another language becomes like second nature, and while you may not always know the words you need - I still don't always have the correct word - you get used to explaining it, or saying it a different way. And if all else fails, there's always the dictionary! As well as that, once I was used to not being at home, I enjoyed living in a different culture. While I was away, I learnt a lot about myself, and I'd like to say that I've gotten more mature. I have changed a lot, but not neccessarily in a bad way. The trip was definately one of the best things I've ever done, and I don't regret it at all.
Leaving was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. The weekend before I left my entire class and other friends went out together. On our last night we went out for dinner as a family, and we laughed about our time together, about the mistakes we made when we first came, the stupid things we said etc. Saying goodbye to Jenni was impossible - she was, and is just like a sister to me. She even brought some of my clothes to Germany! My host father brought me to the airport, and some friends met me to say goodbye. I said goodbye to my host mother in the house, and it took forever. I cried all the way home, reading the letters that my friends had written me.
I'm still in touch with many of my friends from Spain, I miss Zaragoza a lot and I hope to return this summer. I would definately reccomend this programme to anyone wishing to learn another language. It's an easy way to learn another language, and you learn so much more than you could imagine. While the thought of it at first is daunting and scary, it's definately worth it. Saio and Miguel were definately like parents to me while I was in thier home, and they treated me just like they would thier own children. I always felt at home there. It was a completely unforgettable experience, and the one piece of advice I'd give to people is not to be scared about getting the language wrong -it's better just to talk, it's the only way you'll improve. Oh yeah, and bring a diary!