segovia, españa // new experiences

Saying this trip is nothing like what I expected would be a gross understatement. I don’t know what I expected, exactly, but it certainly isn’t this. That being said–is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. Sometimes–might I even dare to say usually?–having a trip turn out differently than expected causes an equally unexpected kind of growth. And that kind of growth tends to be the best kind there is. So since I’m procrastinating on my homework (which yes, we do have and I procrastinate about as much as I do at home) I’ve decided to compile a list of what I’ve learned that I didn’t expect to. This certainly isn’t a complete list, but it’s something, and that has got to count.

1.) You’ll probably forget to follow your own advice. One of the things I was most worried for upon attending my first meeting for this trip back in January was the home stay. Though I’ve done a home stay before, it was only a week and I was partnered with another girl.  This time, I didn’t know what to expect, and was thus unsure of what to say when the other girls on the trip asked me for advice on how to handle the home stay.  The sole advice I 14482747670_48dfa0daa2_ogave? “You’ll get to your home on the first day, be shown your room and left to unpack, and you’ll never want to leave,” I said, “but you have to–and that’s the hardest part.” Yet the first day, I got to my home, was shown my room and left to unpack, and didn’t leave. I could feel the hypocrisy blanketing me–I’d told the other girls to just “go for it,” yet I couldn’t do that myself. For most of the first week, the time I spent at my house was kept to a minimum and I only emerged from my room to either leave or eat meals, which I ate alone in silence. I craved being alone in my room because it was familiar: I could think in English, my language, surrounded by my clothes and my possessions. Being with my host family, on the other hand, meant dealing with unfamiliarity, and I wasn’t sure how much unfamiliarity I could handle in one day–which leads me to my next nugget of knowledge…
2.) Misunderstandings happen.  I’ve had small misunderstandings, like going to the wrong café in the morning and being late to the girls morning breakfast and coffee break before classes. I’ve also had larger misunderstandings, like with my host family. I had told my teacher, Sra. Harrison, that it was kind of awkward in my house because I was the only who ate lunch, etc., which began a roundabout game of telephone between her, our teacher here in Spain, and my host mom, and ended with my host mom thinking I didn’t like living with her and that I hated the food she made–neither of which is true; rather, it’s just the opposite! Although the misunderstanding was awkward to say the least at the time, my host mom and I are much closer now, and we’ve discussed various topics, such as the differences between our home countries, the World Cup (la Copa Mundial, as it’s called over here, is a huge deal, and I couldn’t be happier!), my group of students, safety in cities–the list goes on, over the dining room table. Misunderstandings happen. Embrace them.  Whether they occur from the translation between two languages or just between two people, there’s always something to learn from them, so take the opportunity and run with it. And speaking of…
14482686540_6fb1de0833_o3.) Take the opportunity and run with it. You are given precious opportunities not only on trips but in life, and noticing them is just as important–if not more so–than even taking them. A friend who lives by you offers to show you a new way home? Go with her, and discover not only a new way home but also a park perfect for sitting, reading and writing, or doing homework, complete with larger than life hydrangea bushes perfect for photographing. This is just one example, but there are thousands more. Take a step out of your comfort zone, and you’ll never begin to truly understand what your city and your life has in store. Which, of course, leads me to my next point…
4.) Take a step outside of your comfort zone and relinquish familiarity. This, I have found, is the hardest to follow, not only for me but for the rest of the group as well. If you ever need to find any of the girls in this group, you can check one of three cafés (La Colonial, Farggi, and Limón y Menta) and there is about a 95% chance that you’ll find at least one but mostly likely all of us sitting there, contentedly staring at our phones as we relish our limited time in wifi (or as we call it here, weefee).  Now trust me, I love my wifi just as much as the next girl (and how would I be able to update this blog without it?!) but I equally love roaming the city, unworried about how many likes my Instagram post got or if I’m missing something at home. We as humans naturally crave routine and familiarity, which has for us been disrupted by our limited wifi availability while here in Spain. Having wifi for us is our only connection to the world at home, a world both vastly different and scarily similar to the world here–it’s our only connection to familiarity.  Back home in Minnesota, we can come home to a warm house and know exactly where things are and what to expect. But here, we come home from school to a home that’s not our own, to a bed that’s not our own, to a language that’s not our own. There’s unfamiliarity everywhere–thus explaining our unyielding attachments to our phones and wifi–and the unfamiliarity never ends…
5.) You’ll be unable to communicate. This has by far been the strangest thing for me–I’ve traveled before, and to Spanish speaking countries, but even when thinking in Soanish I’ve been able to switch in a snap to my native tongue. This time, however, it’s different. I speak so much Spanish here, and am so completely immersed in it, that I’ve begun to think in Spanish rather than English, and have even drempt in Spanish–something that seems completely normal until you wake up and are confused as to who you are–which is limiting my ability to speak in English. Today I was sending a message to a friend and had to type “uncomfortable” nine different times before I could remember how to spell it (on the first time it looked a little something like unfortacbe). I try to form sentences in my head in English, and can’t. I’m certainly not fluent in Spanish yet, meaning I currently don’t have a language that just comes naturally–and that’s really, really weird.

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