We are often asked by High School students who are considering a semester or two abroad, “How hard is it to go to school far away from your friends? What will I miss back home? Will I be homesick? Will I make friends?”
Vismaya attended High School Abroad in Spain and has shared a few stories with us about her time there. This one is about homesickness, proms, birthdays, and making good friends when you are far from home.
Nothing could ever equal the excitingness of spending a semester in Spain, and I certainly never felt as though this opportunity was detracting from any other. As I engulfed myself further into the Spanish world, it only made the distance grow larger with life back home. Every so often, as I checked to see what was happening back home, I would see pictures and Instagram stories that made me wish I were back in California (even if it was just for a second). My friend in Spain saw me looking at some Prom posts sometime in late March, and I remember a group of girls huddled around me to marvel at the grandeur of the dresses. They told me that they had all seen so many Proms in many American movies, but they had never experienced something like that (although they all really wanted to!).
As the occasional pangs of homesickness hit me, I would tell my classmate Lucia. It so happened that in one of these conversations, she learnt my birthday was coming up in a month (it was my first birthday away from my parents!). And my friends’ Prom back home was the very week of my birthday! I’m not sure how things progressed so quickly, but the two were put together and soon enough, there was a group chat for “Prom Night/Cumple de Vis” (cumple is “birthday” in Spanish). The whole class was added to the group chat, and they kept me off it (as a surprise, of course). Lucia and Elena (two of my closest friends in Spain) took care of all the RSVPs and the guest list.
We decided to make it a Prom Español. Everyone agreed the dress code would be formal, and the weeks leading up to the event, many of my girlfriends would send me pictures of dresses asking me if the attire was okay for such a party. The day of the party, a few of my friends and I gathered at the locale to blow up balloons and build a huge Prom balloon banner decked in gold, silver, and black balloons. There was also a huge cumpleaños sign with the number 17 on it (for my 17th birthday). One of my other friends and I took the bus to a local market and stocked up on all the food for the event!
I was surprised by the turnout. We were unable to get a group picture of every single person who arrived, but there were many individual pictures. Here are some of the many pictures I took with some of the sweetest classmates I’ve ever had. They even secretly bought me some very cool firecracker candles. Everyone loudly sang me Cumpleaños Feliz as I cut the cake with some of the coolest firecracker candles I’ve ever seen. The sweetest part was the gift I received.
I came to Spain wearing a necklace gifted to me before I left. My classmates here know how much I appreciate jewelry given with the intention of keeping associated with the person/people who gifted it to me. As friendship dynamics have shifted over time, I’ve found myself growing apart from most of my friends back home. Although there are those who have continued talking to me and we are maintaining our friendship, there have been a few fall-outs.
When my Spanish classmates heard about this, they decided to gift me a necklace. This necklace is so special to me because it not only has my name engraved on one side, but it also has an engraving of the day I joined my class (1 Bachillerato C) which is written like the way they write the date here (February 4, 2022 is written as 4-2-2022). I remember Lucia telling me that now I have a special jewelry piece that serves as such a beautiful memory of my birthday and my time here, but also replaces the necklace I used to wear. In addition to the necklace, my classmates wrote me a really beautiful card, and the whole class signed it.
Here is what the card said…as translated into English:
To Vismaya from all your friends in Spain.
We hope that you have liked your birthday in Spain. This is a memory you can take with you, of all of us, and you will always have us for anything you want/need. To us, our time with you has been precious, and we hope you take with you many special memories and people to remember. For us, this experience has been so unique, and you are such an unforgettable person for us who we can appreciate and from whom we can learn. We hope you remember us fondly and that we have made this period of your life beautiful. A memory of the class — we will never forget you.
– 1° Bachillerato C
I cannot believe how lucky I got when it came to being a foreign exchange student, and I cannot believe how quickly the weeks have flown by with these people. I think about how I have only 6-7 more weeks in the classroom with them, and then it will end. It wasn’t that long ago when my teacher Juan first introduced me and told the class to take care of me. And they couldn’t have done a better job. I am going to miss the family we have built so much.
I am so thankful for all the memories. I entered my 17th birthday party in a dull mood because of the distance I had between me and my friends and family back home. The distance changed dynamics and I missed receiving messages from some people back home. But by the time I left this party, my heart was full. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this experience I’ll never forget.
To my parents back home, thank you for letting me have the night of my dreams as a new 17 year old. And to my parents here in Spain, thank you for being cool when you crashed the party 🙂
If you are interested in attending a High School semester somewhere abroad in January 2023…hurry, applications will be closing soon. Of course, there’s always full year programs starting in Fall 2023!