By: Amanda M.
Amanda is a First Time Traveler 2021 Scholarship winner. She is doing our High School Abroad program in Spain for an academic year.
It all started on Sunday, September 19 when I embarked on the journey of my life. I was extremely terrified but excited at the same time to see what my future life in Spain would bring. I arrived in Málaga fo1r my orientation on September 20, 2021. I had gone over 18 hours in flights, and I was extremely jet lagged but extremely happy that I had finally arrived in Málaga. Soon after my arrival the program was constantly picking up more students from the airport. I was amazed to meet students from all over the world! It was so exciting to meet such amazing people and create such international connections when we’re all here to do the same thing. We all travelled from abroad to spend a year or semester in a country that is not our homeland to learn a language and experience a new culture. We were choosing to live our lives and grow into different people. As time went by I became a little homesick, and I knew that missing my family would be normal. However, I was excited to start the new journey in Spain!
At first I was a bit timid with my host family. I was extremely grateful that they had given me this opportunity to stay in this beautiful town with such wonderful people. After a few months the culture shock slowly went away and I became more comfortable with my family. I have three host brothers which was a bit shocking at the beginning. In my family back home there are more girls than boys. It was an adjustment, but they are all very sweet and I consider them all like a second family to me. I also baked my mom’s chocolate cake for them, which I made with one of my host brothers.
Almost every Sunday we go to the campo where you can find a wide variety of fruit and vegetables grown there. We have big family lunches and stay there usually the whole afternoon. If it’s a bit cold we go inside where we are able to enjoy their warm and cozy fireplace.
During the holidays the whole family gathers together and we usually sing karaoke or play fun games. I got a little homesick around Christmas and New Years’ since I was missing my natural family. I was reminded that this is completely normal, and I was able to be grateful for the opportunity to celebrate this years’ holidays with my host family in Spain.
School was extremely hard at first because I was still adjusting to both a new home and city. Especially in the beginning I had to push through jet lag to go to school every day. Sometimes school is extremely hard, such as engaging in a classics course where I struggle to understand what the teacher is saying in Spanish. I’m in humanities so along with Latin and Greek I also have history and some other classes such as Philosophy, Lengua, Aleman Touristico, French, and Ampliación de Inglés. My school starts around 8:30 and ends around 3, it is a little shorter than in the U.S which makes it seem like the time goes by faster here, though!
Unfortunately the schools in Spain do not offer school-sponsored clubs. but you can enroll in activities out of school such as a hobby or a sport. Many students love playing sports like futbol (soccer!) on community teams.
One cultural difference I’ve noticed is transportation. At home I wouldn’t even think about going on a bus to the nearest city. Here, though, I can just take the bus and I arrive in a city without any issues. I was able to explore a lot of places such as Granada. While there I got to see their famous architecture and Christmas spirit for the Reyes Magos. I also visited Málaga; they have a rich and diverse culture. I was able to visit some really cool vintage stores there, and some other small cities. I can’t wait to explore more places!
Another difference is in food – it is absolutely divine! Along with the famous paella, Spain has another dish extremely popular here called migas. It is like a Tex-Mex breakfast dish. It is so popular here that there is even a festiva in December where people make huge batches of migas and people visit from all over the world to eat it. The best part is that it’s free!
When I visited Mijas (a small town outside of Marbella), we ate at an Argentinian restaurant and I was able to try a famous Argentinian burger which was extremely delicious. If you ever visit Nerja. you can also try the best ice cream I’ve ever had! The town has a stunning seaside view that is only made better when you get some ice cream. Unfortunately, I have not learned how to cook any Spanish food yet. However, I hope to learn before I leave!
Another thing that shocked me was learning that in Spain they eat dinner around 9 P.M.; in the U.S I would normally eat dinner around 5 or 6 in the afternoon. It’s definitely been an adjustment!
I’m looking forward to getting to explore new places and become more fluent in my Spanish. I also plan to spend quality time with my friends and family before I leave. With the first few months I was still acclimating to all the changes in experiencing a new culture. Now is the prime time to truly dive deeper into the Spanish culture and language since I’ve worked through some of the harder parts of culture shock.
Over time, I began to make a lot of friends and I was able to do things more independently. Things are still hard sometimes but, I know that I can’t give up, because I’m here for a year and I want to make this experience worthwhile. I’ve already made a lot of lifelong friends, and I know that even when I leave I will remain in contact with them no matter what! I still have 4 months left with a lot to learn. I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity and hope you, too, take this journey since it’s a once in a lifetime chance!
If you’re interested in studying abroad in Spain for a Trimester, Semester, or Academic Year, check out our program page HERE. We also offer a teen summer language camp in Salamanca, Spain for those students who can’t accommodate a program during the school year. If you have other questions or comments about studying abroad in Spain, feel free to drop a comment below, too!