(The Struggles of) An American in Spain

Dearest readers, it seems that I haven’t been completely honest on my latest blog posts…and I really haven’t been very honest to myself either.

Okay that sounded way more dramatic than I thought it would. Let me rephrase.

What I mean to say is that I have been avoiding talking about a whole other part of my study abroad experience that is very real and that much more difficult to talk about.

You know how when you were little you could just close your eyes or cover yourself with a blanket and all of the monsters that were obviously hiding in your closet or under your bed would disappear? Well, I was hoping that I could do that with my feelings. Hide from the bad and all the great parts would be enough.

But that’s not how feelings work. Sometimes it’s better to let yourself feel what you feel.

So what I really want to talk about is just how there are a lot of frustrating, tiring, and even sad moments that happen while studying abroad. Yes, this might be different based on my own personal experiences. And yes, there are so many ups that I do believe outweigh the downs. But that doesn’t mean there still aren’t rough bumps in the road when travelling. Especially for a long period of time. In a different country. Alone.

So with that, let’s begin!


STRUGGLE #1: LEARNING A DIFFERENT LANGUAGE20150705_202650[1]

First of all, one of the roughest experiences I have had is with learning to speak Spanish. This might not be applicable to everyone, but it is a real challenge.

It feels like an emotional roller-coaster. Sometimes, there are really good days. You can understand everything everyone says to you. You can hold a conversation for a long time. Manage to give directions to people. Basically feels like I’m on cloud nine.

But then there are really, really rough days where you blank and you can’t even make intelligible noises. Everyone appears to be speaking too fast. You forget all the vocabulary. AND the grammar. So you’re basically a baby making motions with your hands trying to communicate. And everyone looks at you like you’re stupid. Then they ask how long you have been here and you shamefully say almost two months now. So to make this better, you try to explain that you’re just having a brain fart, but they obviously don’t know what that means so then you try to explain but your brain is still blanking on you. You begin to kick yourself and ask yourself what is wrong with you, why you are even here wasting your time and money, and how you will ever become fluent.

Yeah…that’s what a rough day looks like.

And it happens a lot. I’ve talked with other students about it and they all related a similar experience. It’s just that your brain is working all the time trying to translate, remember, and make sentences in the different language. And it is exhausting. And sometimes a huge letdown after working so hard to get it right.

STRUGGLE #2: LEARNING ABOUT YOURSELF CAN ALSO REVEAL THINGS YOU REALLY DIDN’T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT YOURSELF (INCLUDING HOW MUCH YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOURSELF…)

I really cannot stress this enough. When you are travelling by yourself, you begin to learn a lot about the very person you sometimes forget to get to know. I have found out a lot about myself through this trip…some things I never wanted to know. And I’m not just talking about bad habits like biting your nails or chewing with your mouth open. (PSA: I don’t actually do either of those…you sickos.)

It’s kind of hard to put it into words. Since I didn’t know anyone when I came here (as is the situation for many students studying abroad or solo travelers) I had to put in work to make new friends, something I have not done in a really long time. Meeting new people and running into new and sometimes strange situations has made me see how I behave and react…and it is definitely shedding new light on myself. Sometimes I feel disappointed in how I respond to something, but the fact of the matter is I am young and inexperienced in a lot of ways which means I’m bound to make mistakes. It really doesn’t make it any easier, though.

Also…well this isn’t always true for everyone, but in my experience I have found that I end up spending a lot of down time alone and that has been quite the trial. I have spent time by myself before, but this is very different. I have realized that I don’t really know what I like to do for myself.

You see, normally I like to put myself into projects and into working. Working on shows, working on writing, working on future plans/ideas. And I love doing this. I do. But even if I love it, it still is work. So what do I like to do that doesn’t involve deadlines or working until my mind goes numb? What do I like to do by myself for fun?

I have no idea.

The positive in this, though, is I get to figure it out for once in my life. The downside is I feel even more lost than before I came here…which doesn’t help with all the other stuff.

STRUGGLE #3: TIME MOVES ON…AND SO DO PEOPLE

My siblings and I from a long, long time ago. Miss them like crazy.
My siblings and I from a long, long time ago. Miss them like crazy.

The almost-most difficult thing I have had to accept is that while you are abroad, time will keep moving everywhere else meaning that people’s lives will keep going with or without you. Family and friends will do amazing things and accomplish so much…like graduate high school/college, march in a professional DCI marching corps, have relationships, get internships and jobs, start YouTube channels, win competitions, move to a different state/country, perform gigs at awesome places, start college, have their first child…and you won’t be able to be there for any of it. You won’t be there for your family or your friends through all of the good, the bad, or the ugly. And in my case, you’ll miss your niece being born. And maybe it didn’t seem like it would be a big deal two months ago, but now it will really suck. It actually will hurt a lot.

Of course I’m not saying people should put their life on hold for you (and you shouldn’t have to either)! That’s not fair for anyone. But it still sucks. Change is always hard to accept. It is inevitable and healthy, but hard. And it doesn’t get easier when you’re gone because no matter how hard you try, you can’t runaway from time. Going abroad doesn’t save you from reality.

AND VERY PERSONAL STRUGGLE #4: YOU WILL NEVER BELONG (ALWAYS THE FOREIGNER)

Since I was a little girl, I have never felt like I belonged. I know that’s a mood killer right there in itself, but I have a point.

You see, as a mixed race first-generation American I never felt like I belonged in my own country. I didn’t even start calling myself an American until I came to Spain and people would ask me where I am from. That’s about 20 years of denial and feelings of isolation.

Yikes, I know. Not fun stuff to talk about.

The thing is for some reason I used to believe that I could feel at home in another country. That since I didn’t belong in the United States that I could find another place to belong. Travelling seemed like the key. But then I went to Mexico and I didn’t belong. I went to South Korea and I didn’t belong. And now here I am in Spain…and I really don’t belong. My first day here I was called an Aztec by a group of Spanish children pointing at me like I was some novelty and then treated by American tourists as if I was part of the Asian tour groups. I have never felt like such an outcast in my life. Both Spaniards and Americans are treating me as a foreigner right now.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love travelling. I love getting to know different cultures and learning. But I realized that it was wrong to think I could find that feeling of belonging. I realize now you don’t find that feeling. You kind of have to make it on your own.

I’ll admit, I’m glad that I’m beginning to learn from this experience. It’s just, it’s hard to feel alone and like an outcast especially when you’re trying to take a break from it all.

And no matter how hard you might try to argue with this, understand that experiencing prejudice and discrimination every day is exhausting and frustrating.


So there it is! The longest complaint post about studying abroad problems ever. I hope you understand that I do appreciate and love that I got to have this opportunity and that I still have a few more weeks left in my program to enjoy my time in Spain. Also understand that there are so many positives and great parts to studying abroad! (I will most likely make a lengthy post about them soon after my program ends, so stay tuned for that!)

But at the same time, I hope you also know that these bad feelings have not gone away for me…even after two months. I was talking to a friend of mine who has been abroad now for about 7 months and she even admitted that it is still difficult for her at times.

The fact is transitioning to the unknown and studying abroad can be very difficult. It comes in waves of good and bad moments. But I do honestly believe the good trump the bad. Just be prepared to face personal obstacles, to make mistakes, and to open yourself to change.

20150701_194745

And maybe, just maybe, you will change for the better. I know I hope I do.

Actually, I know will.

But until then,

Vanessa

Advertisements

New Reflections, New Beginnings…and a New Host Family

Man, it has been quite the production for me here in Sevilla. Or as my new host mom said about her busy family schedule…

Una Locura.

Yes, the past couple of weeks (especially this past one) have been crazy for me since I just packed my bags and moved to a new home!

That’s right! I’ll be staying the remainder of my days in Sevilla (a month and a half…ish?) with a new host family.

So I guess you, dear readers, probably are wondering exactly what everyone else asked me when I announced the big news…”Why did you move?”

Well, that’s where it gets kind of difficult. It’s just…well, sometimes certain experiences are just really hard to write about. So I hope you can understand my decision to not elaborate on it. If anything, the most important thing that I’ve learned from the entire experience (a very important but difficult lesson) is that you’re not going to get along with everyone. I mean, the fact of the matter is…not everyone is going to like you. And that is just something that has to be accepted.

Nothing to be sad and cry over, of course! Just a truth I think many people don’t really like to talk about.

To be honest, it was actually really difficult to swallow my pride and admit that. I almost felt like I was giving up on my previous host family, letting a relationship fail. But the reality is I wasn’t happy and the relationship was toxic for both of us. So I swallowed up that pride and got the courage to tell people what it was that I needed.

…And if recognizing (plus stating) your own needs doesn’t deserve a “Hell yeah!” then I don’t know what does, my dear readers.

Anywho, moving on to the next order of business…my new host family!

Oh my goodness, I love my new host family! They are all so nice and kind to me. Also, I especially appreciate that both parents and their kids talk with me a lot to help me practice speaking Spanish. It’s really thoughtful of them to take time out of their schedule just to talk and ask about my day/family/life.

…Oh, and it may or may not be an added bonus that my host dad cooks amazing food (gazpacho for lunch? uh yes please) and that they own the cutest and most friendly dog ever! As soon as I arrived to the new house and saw the dog, I had to physically force myself not to drop my luggage to cuddle with him right then and there.

So yeah…that might have had a factor…

But needless to say, I am really content and happy here. And that’s a really nice change from everything I had been feeling previously.

My new room! The pillow says,
My new room! The pillow says, “In a perfect world, every dog would have a home and every home would have a dog.” Truth.

Now, as for more updates? Well…

I started a new course for June (20th Century Spanish Theatre), which is great! It’s a lot of work and reading, but it’s really interesting. Plus, I’m learning a lot about the Spanish Civil War and its effects on theatre as well as learning new vocabulary from all the reading. And we got to see a theatre production in El Teatro Lope de Vega for free! Gotta love that.

Teatro Lope de Vega is a beautiful theater! The chandlier was glorious.
Teatro Lope de Vega is a beautiful theater! The chandelier is especially glorious.

In other Sevilla news, over the last couple of weeks I…

Visited La Plaza de Toros,

A bullfight (novillada) consists of 6 bulls typically...maybe one day I'll have the courage to see one.
A bullfight (novillada) typically consists of 6 bulls…maybe one day I’ll have the courage to see one…until then, pictures of the place where it happens!

Explored el barrio de Los Remedios (within it El Parque de los Príncipes),

Walking the streets of Los Remedios (think this is the street where Sevilla's famous Feria de Abril) happens.
Walking the streets of Los Remedios (think this is the street where Sevilla’s famous Feria de Abril happens…don’t quote me on that).

Walked around el barrio de Santa Cruz (within it Los Jardines de Murillo),

Found in el Parque de Murillo!
Neat find in Los Jardines de Murillo!

And went to Nervion to see El Estadio de Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, the Sevilla fútbol stadium (and to do some shopping at the mall nearby admittedly…)

The top view of the stadium. All the different teams are painted on the sides. The center one is for Sevilla.
A view of the stadium. All the different teams are painted on the sides. The center one is for Sevilla!

Last weekend, I went with a friend of mine from the program to Granada to visit La Alhambra (this really famous and awesome palace) and go to their Feria del Corpus (a longer celebration of Corpus Christi, also celebrated in Sevilla).

The celebration of Corpus Christi in Sevilla.
Before we left, we got to see the celebration of Corpus Christi in Sevilla! There was a HUGE procession.
A woman making an artisan fan by hand at the Feria de Corpus arts' showcase in Granada's city council building. So much work!
A woman making an artisan fan by hand at La Feria de Corpus arts’ showcase in Granada’s city council building. So much work!
The incredible views from the tops of the buildings.
The incredible views from the tops of the buildings of la Alhambra in Granada…mind the scaling on the side…

Oh! In other news, I also finally started volunteering at the children’s hospital in el Hospital Universitario Virgen del Rocío! It’s only been 2 days since I started, but I feel so happy to be working there. The volunteers and staff are nice and the children are inspiring! It’s just really a joy to be able to help them.

So that wraps up my last couple of weeks! I’ll be sure to let you know more about the hospital and other (mis)adventures!

Until then,

Vanessa

Two Weeks Gone! (Special Edition)

When I put Special Edition in this post’s title, I think what I really meant to say was something along the lines of, “This is the Post Where I Try to Make Up for Not Posting for a Week and Where I Learn the Importance of Time Management…”

But that seems a bit much, so let’s just stick with Special Edition.

Anywho! Similar to my post last week, here is my quick review of my second complete week in Sevilla.

(Don’t worry, the special part comes after.)

WEEK TWO COMPLETE!

Lessons Learned:

  • As soon as there’s a health problem, go to the medical center. I repeat: as soon as there is a health problem, go to the medical center. If you notice there is something even slightly abnormal going on with you, go seek help from your program and/or visit a medical practicioner. Maybe it’s nothing. But if it is? You’re gonna regret not going earlier and now having to get a big shot in an uncomfortable place for an allergy reaction you didn’t know you had…Just saying.
  • On that note, it’s okay to still be scared of shots in your early 20s…and to tear up a little bit when you see the needle…
  • Be spontaneous! Weekend trip to Morocco that you didn’t know about until 8-10 hrs ago? Sure! You never know what you might miss if you’re not willing to let go of insecurities and just go with it! And that weekend trip to Morocco? Best time of my life with some now really close friends who had previously been strangers until then. (SO to Ripon crew!)
  • …At the same time, some planning never hurt nobody. Example? Looking up prices for hostels now for that weekend trip during Corpus Christi in Granada = A hell of a lot less money spent. (Definitely recommend hostelworld.com and airbnb.com to name a couple sites off the top of my head.)
  • Time management is key to success. This is definitely true, even while studying abroad. If you don’t learn to juggle your time wisely, you won’t have time to really do anything at all. For example, too much studying means you won’t experience as much first hand. But then going out too much means you won’t have time to study at all for that exam coming up. And if you do either or both too much then you won’t have time for yourself…or time to rest…or time to upkeep that blog about your trip that you said you would post once a day on…(Sorry, too meta?)

Places Visited/Seen:

  • Morocco (Cities: Chefchaouen, Tangiers, and Assilah)
  • La Catedral de Sevilla
  • Cádiz
  • Mercado de Triana (Forgot to take pictures and bring money for food so I’ll have to return!)

Now as for the special part, I decided I owe all of you patient readers for all the time lost. Hopefully a lot of pictures from this week will make-up for it?

I’ll take that as a yes…

Technically from last Friday, but here's a picture from the Real Alcazar! Definitely have to return!
Technically from last Friday, but here’s a picture from the Real Alcazar! Definitely have to return!
In the Medina of Chefchaouen, Morocco. It's called the Blue City because all the buildings are blue and white. The colors help reflect the hot summer rays.
In the Medina of Chefchaouen, Morocco. It’s called the Blue City because all the buildings are blue and white. The colors help reflect the hot summer rays.
This is where the community would gather to wash carpets and clothing together.
This place by the river is where the community gathers to wash rugs and clothing together.
Cool murals/street art in Assilah. Also made friends with a really nice shopkeeper and her son. Nice people.  Oh yeah and photo credits to my friend, Holly, who stole my phone for a bit.
Cool murals/street art in Assilah. Also, made friends with a really nice shopkeeper and her son there. Really nice people!
Oh yeah, and photo credits to my friend, Holly, who stole my phone for a bit.
At la Catedral de Sevilla.
At La Catedral de Sevilla. The view from the bottom of the tower…
Worth climbing 32 floors. I mean great views and cardio for the day? Win, win.
And the view from the top of the tower. Worth climbing 32 floors. I mean, great views and cardio for the day? Win, win.
Taken at Cádiz. This was another spontaneous trip and man it was worth the two hour train ride. Turns out it is one of the oldest cities in Spain with lovely beaches.
Taken at Cádiz. This was another spontaneous trip and man it was worth the two hour train ride. Turns out it is one of the oldest cities in Spain…
The water was so blue, too!
Plus lovely beaches! The water was so blue.

Yeah, so that was all from this past week…which also actually concludes my May term! I just took my final exam (literally praying to every god that I did well) and I’m about to take a new course for the June term as well as volunteer at a children’s hospital! Exciting stuff to come. So I’m really looking forward to the new term and as always, extremely grateful!

And just to spread that gratitude, I thought I would share some other pictures I took yesterday.

As you may or may not know in fútbol news, Sevilla just won the Europa League for a record fourth time! (Sevilla! Sevilla!)

I couldn’t see the game unfortunately due to my health issue (hence…”as soon as there is a health problem, go to the medical center“)…But! I got to be in the center when Sevilla welcomed their team back home. Here are some final pictures that I thought really help capture the city’s pride and spirit in that moment.

The anticipation as the players arrive.
The anticipation and cheers as the players arrive.
Sevilla pride.
So much Sevilla pride.
The players in union at la Fuente de Híspalis.
The players in union at la Fuente de Híspalis.

Hope you enjoyed! Now, I got some more adventuring to do!

Until then,

Vanessa

One Week Gone!

Update!

I’ve decided that at the completion of each week while I am in Sevilla to do a quick reflection. So this post won’t really be my usual long ones about my day, but more of a check-in on what I’ve learned so far and places I’ve seen. Maybe you can find something useful to take from my experiences!

So…without further ado…

WEEK ONE COMPLETE!

Lessons Learned:

  • Speak! Yes, it’s hard to speak a different language but you have to practice. So speak Spanish everywhere you go. Some might not be able to understand you. Some might respond in English instead. It doesn’t matter. Try again and again and again.
  • Go out when you’re feeling down/homesick. Trust me. It happens. So go out! See something beautiful. Laugh with friends. Eat, drink, be merry. Forget worries for once; you’re in Spain!
  • Learn everything you can to avoid offending someone. It most likely will happen anyway. But be sure to put in the effort.
  • Be sure to make time to study along with the exploring and partying. Enough said.
  • And…don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re learning. You’re trying. Be patient.

Places Visited/Seen:

  • Córdoba
  • La Plaza de España
  • La Plaza América
  • Itálica
  • Museo de Bellas Artes
  • Real Alcazar

That just about wraps it up!

Next week, I’ll give you updates about my weekend (hint: it starts with an ‘M’…) and more reflections about my daily adventures.

Until then,

Vanessa

M.I.A. in Spain

So…First of all, I owe you all an apology for being M.I.A. for a few days. I’ll admit it was my bad so…

I’m sorry.

When I first created this blog, I honestly meant to post about my daily adventures once a day. But I mean, I’m in Sevilla! A new country, new people, new places. Not to mention time difference? It’s new and exciting…and hard. If I’m going to be perfectly honest with you all, it’s been very hard to find balance in my schedule (and use time wisely) on top of learning Spanish.

So please, awesome readers, be patient as I try out different posting times and dates. What might work one day might not work the next. I’ll never know until I try it!

With that said, I’ll catch you up on what has happened in the past 2-3 days with a quick review.

So the last time I posted was the night before the first day of class.

Oh my goodness. Did I almost wet my pants from terror? Most definitely.

I mean…thank goodness I didn’t actually. If I did, then I would have died right then and there of embarrassment.

So crisis averted there!

But yeah, I was really nervous because I signed up for the most challenging Spanish language course for the May term (3 weeks, more or less). My biggest fear was that I would be so bad at Spanish compared to others in my class that I would have to move to another less challenging course. Or even worse? That the teacher would be horrible.

You know what I’m talking about, right? The I-believe-I-am-better-than-you elitest type? Or the I-pick-favorites-and-you’re-definitely-not-in-that-group type? Or the I-hate-teaching-why-am-I-even-here type?

Luckily, my professor and class are awesome! The class is only made up of four people (including myself) so the professor can really focus on each person’s level and improvement. José, the professor, is very nice and patient. He listens to us talk and corrects us without judgement, which helps us understand better and learn more (I always found that positive reinforcement is the best way to encourage others, especially when learning a new language…take note, teachers!).

That night we hung out with Manuel again who wanted to practice speaking English, but swore that starting the next day he would only speak in Spanish as a way to help us practice more (ay dios mio…lord, help me).

Saturday, the program took us on a day trip to Córdoba to look at the mosque there as well as the feria de patios. I wish I took more pictures but ah well! The past is in the past now (like am I right or am I right?).

The architecture in Spain never ceases to amaze me...
The architecture in Spain never ceases to amaze me…
Arches for days
Arches for days…
So many pictures...
So many pictures…but not enough at the same time…
Last one. Finally.
Last one. Finally.

Pretty impressive stuff, right?

So then we walked around for a bit, I got some pretty gnarly bug bites (don’t think you need a picture of that…), and back in Sevilla we decided to walk near my home stay to see La Plaza de España and La Plaza de América.

Photo evidence of me resting in some benches of a closed museum in the Plaza América.
Photo evidence of me resting in some benches of a closed museum in La Plaza de América…In case you doubted me…

Then after some dinner, Kirsten (a friend of mine from the program) and I met up with Manuel, Miguel, and Miguel’s girlfriend at the bars.

[Quick side note! Miguel’s girlfriend? So nice and beautiful – inside and out! She was so caring and just a sweet person overall. I definitely hope we can meet up with her again soon!]

Anyway, back on topic…Saturday was a lot, and I mean a lot, of walking.

Sunday, I met up with Kirsten and Kelsey at La Plaza de España for a little bit. We walked around the park, rested in the shade, and shopped at a bunch of little artisan stalls that happened to be there that day. After siesta, I was supposed to go watch the fútbol games with them at a small bar…

You know, including the one were Messi made an amazing goal for Barcelona? That one??

But, I overslept and missed it all…Oops.

So I did homework (grammar exercises and read the local newspaper – an interesting article about the queen, la guardia civil, and terrorism).

And now here we are!

I just got back from class and honestly I don’t really have any plans yet…

I assure you though, readers, you’ll be the first to hear about it.

Until then,

Vanessa

Torn Maps, Manuel/Miguel, and Balsamic Vinegar

Update! Found an internet cafe while walking around el centro, but it was time for siesta and closed by the time I left orientation. But I shall prevail!

Until then, posting around midnight-2 am (Sevilla time) will just have to do.

So, orientation. Where do I begin?

This morning I woke up to the plesant sounds of a busy morning. As weird as it might sound, I’m not being sarcastic. I actually love the sounds of cars driving by, people talking, and food being cooked. To me it means that a city is alive and moving.

But it wasn’t so pleasant once I realized that I was late. And I mean late.

I was suppose to walk to the center for orientation with my new friend at 9:00 am. I woke up at 9:13 am. I don’t think I have ever gotten ready faster in my life. Once I was decent enough, I ran to say goodbye to my house mother only to meet the maid. To be honest, I had no idea we had a maid, but she seems like a very nice lady (who speaks even faster than the other people I have met). But sadly, I had to run so I said goodbye and left.

Then I met up with my friend and everything seemed like it was going to be okay, right? Well…That’s exactly when we got lost. Normally I’m pretty good at finding the way and in Sevilla it’s really easy for me to mark points along a path. For example, walk toward the gardens, pass the grand university on the left, turn right toward the cathedral. Kind of hard to miss locations like this…except when you use a Starbucks as one of your marking points…Man, it really only takes one Starbucks to screw you up.

We were almost 30 minutes late to orientation (It took us almost 45 minutes longer than it should have…Ay, dios mio indeed). But the staff were very nice and understanding about it and from there on, the day became great!

We separated in groups and toured el centro with professors of the school. I got to meet Luis, my group’s guide, the day I arrived and he was very sweet. He asked me if I was able to find my way okay (uhhh…sí…) and he explained the history of many of the buildings we saw. I met another girl in my group named Kelsey who studied in Alicante for 4 months before she came here and a small group of us went to look at the river between el centro and triana (another neighborhood). It was honestly so scenic that I couldn’t help but take a picture…

El Rio...¡qué bonita!
El Rio…¡Qué bonita!

Afterwards, we went home and took our siestas. On that note, I have to say I am loving having time to rest and sleep, especially considering the heat! It’s so hot here (…just warning you if you ever want to visit Sevilla).

Around 6-ish, we went back to the center and met our intercambios, or Spanish speaking partners. In the center, there are also sevillanos there to learn English so the program pairs us together as a way for both of us to practice speaking. My intercambio could not make it (we’ll plan on meeting later!), but I got to meet many locals like Anna, an art historian who gave us advice on what places to see and where to eat/drink as well as her number in case we ever want to go visit some art museums (talk about awesomeness!). Kelsey’s intercambio also invited us out to watch the semifinal fútbol game in the bars.

It was…

Sevilla v. Fiorentina…who will reign supreme?

*Cue dramatic fighting music very similar to ths Rocky theme.

Sevilla did. Obviously.

Well, we actually didn’t really watch the game so much as talk with the intercambio, Miguel, and his friend, Manuel…

(Or maybe it’s the other way around? One day I will be great with names. I swear.)

Anyway, we all drink, eat some tapas, and overall have a good time (tortilla de patatas? So good…just saying).

And the most important thing? We get to know each other. Both guys want to be involved in law and the government, but have many different interests and are very different. Manuel is more quiet and tries to listen to us teach Miguel words in English as a way to prep for his big English listening test. Meanwhile, Miguel talks a lot about, well, almost everything. Countries, education, his girlfriend, film.

[Oh! Speaking of which, side note. Film. This might be a bit of a generalization so bear with me, but it turns out a lot of the local people I have met love talking about film. All I can say is thank goodness my brother talked to me for hours about movies back home so I could hold a decent conversation (thank you brotha!).]

Okay, back on topic! Anyway, it was just really nice getting to know more people today/tonight and making friends. Manuel/Miguel told us that we could all go get Spanish style coffee and chat more tomorrow, which is just another thing to look forward to!

…besides classes…But that’s another story!

For now, I’ll finally end the night on this note. When I finally got back home, my house mother had prepared for me a plate of coquetes and tomatoes with olive oil (delicious!). As I ate, she told me that she wasn’t sure if I would also like a type of sauce on it and showed me the bottle. It was balsamic vinegar, something my mom and I both love back home. I smiled and said, “¡Claro! Es mi favorito.”

As I ate, I began to feel a little bit, even if for just a few brief moments, at home.

And I can’t wait to experience that feeling even more as my days continue.

Until then,

Vanessa

Day One: Success? More or less…

The last week and a half…hmm, where do I even begin?

Well, it all started with finals.

Over the past week and a half, I had to take 4 finals, complete 1 project, perform an acting scene, and move out of my dorm room all while prepping and packing for Spain. Stressful? To say the least.

So honestly (and shamefully) it was no surprise to me that my room ended up looking something like this…

Disaster Zone
Disaster Zone

Talk about a literal walking natural disaster, am I right? …Don’t judge me…

Yeah, it was a horrible mess. But flashforward to the present! Not only did my room go from complete trajedy to this in 2 days…

Look
Look, (almost) all better!

But now I am in Sevilla, Spain!

The trip was not an easy one, from all of that mess to mistaken airplane shuttle reservations to getting stopped at security each time because they think the candle for my host mom is a potential threat (Yeah, like what? I mean, watch out world! The new threat is a sweet pea candle…?) to extreme jet lag, but I know all of the hassle will be worth the trip in the end.

Everyone I have met so far has been extremely welcoming. My house mother Teresa is extremely nice, the professors are nice, the residential staff is nice…just nice, nice, nice! With that though comes the language barrier…

I thought that after 4 years of high school Spanish and a year of college level Spanish that I would be somewhat equipped enough to hold a decent conversation. Oh boy was I wrong. All of the locals speak very fast and with a slight accent that throws off my comprehension. They are very understanding of that though and patiently try to repeat/rephrase what they say until I can understand. I am extremely grateful for this…but at the same time, I can’t help but feel frustrated at myself for not catching on right away and for having to ask them to repeat themselves. I know that it just means I will have to work harder so I can learn faster. And afterall, that is exactly why I am here; to learn.

I would love to write more about my first day, but jet lag is getting to me and I have to be up early tomorrow for my second day of orientation. Hopefully I can find some kind of internet cafe or free WiFi so I can tell you all about orientation and navigating the streets of Sevilla asap!

But until then, buenas noches!

Vanessa

BIG News

 (Or a little back-story on my not-so-bucket list…)

It’s true! I have BIG news to share with the world (or whoever is willing to lend an open ear)! And it all started one not-so-special day a few months ago with a not-so-bucket list.

Earlier this spring semester, I was sitting in my room realizing just how real the second semester slump feels. I lamented to my good friend about how empty I felt inside. It was as if I had no motivation. No purpose. I couldn’t help it. I felt…trapped.

I realized right then and there that I had to take action. I had to do something. Plan for something bigger for me to work toward, to look forward to for blue days like these.

So I made a bucket list. Maybe a bit of a dramatic move? Probably. But at least it gave me the opportunity to reflect on the years to come in my life.

Some of my top goals on the list are to:

  • “Learn about the history on my father’s side of the family in Mexico.”
  • “Work on (or at least somewhere near) Broadway.”
  • “Become fluent in Spanish.”
  • “Write a full play.”

And my ultimate goal: “Travel to every continent.”


Now, my only real problem with my bucket list is that it isn’t really a bucket list.

According to the wonderful search engine known as Google, ‘bucket list’ is defined as follows:

buck·et list

noun

informal

  1. a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.
"making this trip is the first thing on my bucket list"

(Google also suggested the 2007 movie The Bucket List, but I reassure you, readers, that I am not referencing that movie when I write this…No offense, of course, to the beautiful Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson…)

Hope. Hope is a funny word. Don’t get me wrong! Hope is a great thing. Hope is the kind of optimism we need at times in our lives. Now, my only problem with ‘hope’ is that we can sit around and hope that good things will happen, but what good is that when we can get up and do? That is why I simply cannot let myself call this list a bucket list. I fully intend and will do every single thing on that list I made. All a bit ambitious? Yes. Possible? Yes. So, on my list? Definitely.

In fact, I’ve already made the first move, which leads me directly to my BIG news…Ahem.

Drum roll, please.

People of the world…I, Vanessa Reyes, am about to board a plane and spend the next 2.5 months in Sevilla, Spain!

I know! Exciting stuff, right?

In all seriousness, I am beyond grateful and excited for this wonderful learning opportunity provided to me through the support of my family and friends as well as Spanish Studies Abroad. (A very special shout-out also to my sister, Caro, for guiding me throughout this process as well! Love you!)

During my time in Sevilla, I intend to finally become fluent in Spanish, immerse myself in Spanish culture, and meet a variety of people. To put it simply, I really want to open myself up to new adventures and, ultimately, the world unknown to me!

Honestly, this is going to be one of the most exciting and frustrating journeys I have ever taken. While I am up for the challenge, Sevilla and Spain in general will be very different than the world I know. I will face language barriers, culture shock, and home sickness. Also, this will be the first trip to a foreign country that I will be taking by myself.

So, on a scale of 1 to 10 how terrified am I?

About a solid very.

But I have faith in myself…which is also admittedly new to me, but nevertheless reassuring.

I am scheduled to depart May 12th so time is going by way faster than I thought! I still am in the process of collecting my things and packing (I’ll tell you all more about that next time), but I am looking forward to setting foot in my new home for the next few months and meeting the people of Sevilla.

Wish me luck, people of the world! And until next time,

Vanessa