Looking Back on My Wondrous Life in Spain

A 400-year-old Castle in Spain

I still remember watching my Spanish friends walk down the street for the last time, the light from the streetlamps bouncing off their backs until they finally turned the corner. It all came to such a perfect end. I loved every day of my three magical months in Spain.

Now that I have returned to the United States, my appreciation of the people and my experiences have deepened. In such a short time, I became a student in a Spanish high school, a member of a family and a friend to many. I have grown personally, my language skills have improved and I know much more about the world.

I have learned more than I ever thought was possible about myself.

Greenheart Traveler, Martin Tomlinson, with his host family in Spain.

Martin Tomlinson with his Spanish host family.

When I Arrived in Spain

It wasn’t long ago that my kind host family greeted me at the train station in Villarrobledo. I still miss conversations during our long lunches, playing with the kids, Paella Sundays and our daily bread from the 200-year-old bakery down the cobblestone road. They gave me just the right amount of independence and support.

Sometimes on weekends my family went to Madrid. This allowed me to meet their family there and explore the city. I went to the Prado three times and would happily go back again. My family also helped arrange my participation to go on a week-long field trip with students from my school to Basque country. I was so incredibly lucky to have such a loving family. They were truly invested in my welfare.

The Spaniards have a refreshing directness while showing great compassion for others. I saw a natural and an expected respect for elders. Many times an older person walking out of a grocery store would ask me or even tell me to help them with their bags. It was just understood that you are part of a community and the community helps one another. I happily helped because I knew their request for help with their grocery bags meant I had become a member of the community.

Religious statues in Spain.

Religious statues inside churches near where Martin Tomlinson lived in Spain.

What I’ve Learned from My Experience in Spain

I guess the most obvious way I’ve grown from my experience in Spain is academically. I learned to push myself hard and realized I am capable of much more than I thought. In the beginning, I struggled every day with my classes and my lessons. I was in a new culture in a new school trying to comprehend new concepts. All of this made things incredibly difficult.

I quickly realized the only way to succeed was to push myself more than ever before. I spent hours studying in the local library and many nights with little sleep. Before I knew it, I was comfortable with the language and school life.

During my three months in Villarrobledo, I only met one other native English speaker. We met in a coffee shop and talked for three hours. It was great, but it wasn’t something I was looking for or seeking out. I really liked the full immersion in the Spanish culture and school life. This program worked well for me because of the welcoming people of Villarrobledo.

Greenheart Traveler, Martin Tomlinson, with classmates in Spain as well as a sign in Spanish while on a trip.

Martin Tomlinson with classmates in Spain as well as a sign in Spanish while on a trip.

By the End of My Time in Spain

I was able to finish my assignments and understand nearly everything going on in the classroom. I actively participated in class discussions. The week before I left, many teachers came up to me and commented on how much of a change they had noticed since I first stepped into their classrooms. I wasn’t really sure if I would ever be good at learning Spanish.

This experience taught me I can learn another language. Now, I am more determined to keep studying Spanish and learn more languages.

Living 4,788 miles away from your hometown changes you.

I came back to the United States with a different perspective of myself and my place in the world. I am a more independent, confident and accepting person. Spending months alone so far from home, I discovered things about myself. I was forced to rely on my own skills, but self-sufficiency brings happiness. There’s a joy in finding out just how capable you are. I also placed my confidence in others in a more powerful way than I ever thought possible. I am so grateful to the townspeople, teachers, classmates and my host family, all of whom helped me navigate my life in Spain.

There are many things I wish I knew before I went to Spain, but the most important thing is that I made the decision to go.

Once there, I searched out every opportunity to immerse myself in the language and learn about the culture. I made some of my closest friends by accepting an invitation to a party.

Living abroad led to meeting great people, in addition to my exposure to a culture much older than ours here in the United States. It has made me a more understanding person in every way. I’m still in contact with many Spanish friends and my host family. These lasting friendships are what I treasure most from my time in Spain.

Greenheart Traveler, Martin Tomlinson, traveling around Basque country in Spain.

Martin Tomlinson traveling around Basque country in Spain.

Returning home from Studying High School in Spain

After I returned home, I also came to realize many people made my trip so wonderful. I truly appreciate all of the amazing people who contributed to giving me this great opportunity. Thanks to my Spanish teacher in the USA for showing me the beauty of the Spanish language. After meeting her, I knew I would become fluent in Spanish one day.

Thanks, too, to Greenheart Travel, their partners in Spain, my wonderful host family, the welcoming town of Villarrobledo, the students and teachers at my school – IES Virrey Moricillo – and the people I befriended in Spain for making my stay a wondrous adventure.


About the Author:

Martin Tomlinson is 16 years old and lives in Overland Park, Kansas. His was inspired to study abroad in Spain because he feels “it is important to be a global citizen. Experiencing a different culture not only helps me understand it, but also helps me examine my culture and examine my views in deeper and more meaningful way. I want to become the most understanding person that I can possibly be.” Follow Martin’s adventures on our blog! 

2 thoughts on "Looking Back on My Wondrous Life in Spain"

  1. Arielle Farinas says:

    LOVED reading this!!

    1. Chase Chisholm says:

      Thank you for reading, Arielle!

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