When Reality Strikes

7 Sep

I remember vividly what I felt at the airport August 26, 2010.  Honestly, not much of anything.  Yes, somewhat excited.  But sad?  Not so much.  For some reason, it all still felt so surreal, like some dream that I would soon wake up from.  Good-byes were exchanged like any other day, as if I would be returning in the morning.  The tears I had pictured were certainly nowhere to be found. 3 flights and 6 orientation presentations later, I was placed with my Spanish family.  Reality check.

I will begin first by saying that the Spanish you learn in the classroom for a few hours a week is not a strong asset when using the language in its native context.  Not only do Spaniards speak very quickly, but there are many colloquial phrases used as well.  I remember arriving with my family the first day, and not even understanding half of anything they were trying to tell me.  By that night, between the jet lag of travel, the frustration of not being able to communicate, the realization that I was really here for 4 months, and the aching pain of missing my loved ones, I broke down and cried.  I didn’t cry because I hated it here, and I certainly didn’t want to go home.  I cried for the overwhelming sudden change in my life, and this realization hit me like a bag of bricks.

Being aware of culture shock and homesickness is a must when you study abroad.  I have never been homesick in my life before this, so I knew I had to prepare for it and expect it, just in case.  Had I not, I may have spent days, even weeks, feeling miserable and lost, seeing these new changes as a burden and threat.  However, after that night, I woke up feeling completely rejuvenated, and embracing with open arms all the different things about my new life.

Since then, I have learned so much more Spanish than I ever had in any of my classes.  To my surprise, I find it much easier to understand others than speak it, which is the opposite of what I thought before I arrived.  Trying to converse is a struggle, but I’m getting there.  You would be amazed at how much you can learn in a week:  schedules, walking around the city, friendships, the language.  All of it comes together so quickly, and before you know it, you begin to feel comfortable in this new skin.

Of course, there are still moments when I can get a little sad thinking of others back in the States.  But instead of feeling loss, I just remember how wonderful it’s going to be to share this experience with them 4 months from now.  I get to tell them how much about the culture and language I have learned, and that I was able to enjoy both the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea all in the same day.  Until then, I am going to continue enjoying this fabulous city that I would like to call “home”.


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