- by Natalia Corbitt
My mom drove me to the airport on the crisp early morning of June 26th, just before the sun had even risen. She kept reminding me: “have an open mind and don’t be afraid to speak Spanish. They may speak fast but you’ve got this.” We checked my heavy bag, made our way through security, and patiently waited for my moment of departure. She stood with me in line and I waved goodbye as I made my way through the tunnel to my airplane. Two steps through and all of a sudden I was alone. Traveling to a distant country to be greeted by a foreign family and only speak a strange language. I knew at that time that the thought of that should terrify me, but the idea was absolutely thrilling and I was excited for my new adventure overseas.
I slowly fell in love with all of it: the language, the culture, the food, the city, and the people.
When I arrived in Madrid, the first thing I noticed about my family was how fast they spoke. Boy, my mom was right! My first days were rough in the realm of speaking but the more I spoke, the better I got, and the better I got the more I spoke. I kept my head up and let myself mess up countless times. Before I knew it I was speaking Spanish in full sentences and paragraphs and following along with their conversations.
Their culture was beautiful. They woke up late and stayed out past hours. The whole country was awake in what we Americans would consider the dead of the night. They ate late dinners and had a siesta in the hottest part of the day. I quickly adapted to this lovely way of life and easily melded into a new routine.
The food was something that I had to get used to. They ate medium sized breakfasts, large lunches, and small dinners. They ate lots of fish and ham which at times was hard to enjoy due to the fish with eyes and the octopus tentacles. For anyone planning on visiting a foreign country, I highly advise trying absolutely everything! I was definitely surprised at how amazing all of their food was and that octopus tentacles are actually delicious.
The city of Madrid was beautiful. We lived in the village Alcalá de Henares which is about thirty minutes from Madrid with a beautiful old downtown area. Madrid was expensive and there were many different areas like the large city, the parks, and the old buildings. We also visited Toledo which is a town almost completely built of stone and filled with ancient cathedrals.
The people were by far my favorite. I fell in love with each of them and the way that complete strangers treated me like family. There was absolutely no age discrimination here. I found myself hanging out with people from the age of 13 to 21, with no filter in maturity. In comparison, America is so segregated and the friend groups are so definite, but in Spain, my host sister had so many different friend groups of different ages which I found quite beautiful.
Before I went to Spain, everyone told me that the language was the hardest part about staying abroad, or the culture shock. But all of them were wrong. The hardest part is by far saying goodbye. Saying goodbye to the city, to your family, and to all of the people that you made friends with in such a short amount of time. It’s the hardest to say goodbye to this little home you made of a foreign place with foreign people. So cherish every second with them and leave a piece of your heart there, as I did in Spain.