Happy thanksgiving, everyone! My first thanksgiving away from home but that’s alright because thanks to Skype, I can see my family and feel like I’m right there with them :) I also have my spanish family and friends to spend time with today so I have a lot to be grateful for.
I figured I would be cliché today and list a few things that I’ve learned to be thankful for over the past few months (some I was thankful for before this experience as well, obviously).
- Growing and changing.
- The ability to adapt to a new, unfamiliar environment and thrive in it.
- Family, not only my amazing blood family but the family I’ve created all over the world.
- The best friends I’ve met in Spain who have grown so close to my heart in such a short time frame.
- Central heating.
- Long, hot, 30 minute long showers while not having to hold the shower head.
- Egg nog.
- Music… the one thing in my life that keeps me sane when I’m ready to fall apart.
- The cleansing process of tears, tears of happiness and sadness.
- Socks and rugs.
- Technology to keep in contact with my loved ones halfway across the world from me.
- My own personal spanish grammar teacher (my beautiful host mother).
- My queen size bed back home in the states.
- The gradual progression of my language development… increasing my level month by month.
- A new sense of patience, something I’ve seemed to lack my entire life.
- Learning to transform negatives into positives, life’s too short to be full of complaints.
I wish I could be with my family today but in a few short days we will be reunited in Spain :) I absolutely cannot wait to see them!
Everyone have a blessed holiday!
I think pushing myself out of my comfort zone and studying abroad is exactly what I needed in order to find myself. I have learned so much about myself and other people during my travels and experiences. I have learned the very importance of physical gestures and facial expressions because those are the only ways of communication that are truly worldwide. I’ve learned how to be more tolerant of people that I honest to God cannot stand. I’ve learned how to put myself in an uncomfortable environment and befriend people that I would never think of befriending back home in the States. I’ve learned how to quickly adapt to completely new environments and be friendly to people in different countries even if they aren’t the friendliest back. I’ve learned how to communicate, day by day, in a language that isn’t my primary. I’ve learned how to awkwardly be thrown into a random woman’s house and slowly view and treat her as my own mother/grandmother. And it’s worked out so well. She is one of the sweetest women I have ever met in my life and I have been so blessed to have her as my Spanish mama. She truly cares about my day to day activities and is interested in what I’m interested in. She’s interested about my background, my family, my interest in boys, food, bars, experiences, etc. I can’t believe how comfortable I’ve grown around this woman. She’s always there when I need advice about something whether it’s medical or something as stupid as advice about Spanish men. She always has such a helpful input. I can honestly say this woman will always be a part of me, and she is a part of my family now. She has been the best mom away from home and I know my mom would be so pleased to know how well I’ve been taken care of while in a strange and unfamiliar place. Although not so strange and unfamiliar anymore.
"Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life that want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile & love you no matter what."
I had entirely different goals coming into Spain. My primary goal was to come to Spain, learn about the culture and learn the language to the best of my ability (more than I already knew coming here). I had no idea how attached I was going to get to this beautiful country. It’s not even solely the country I have grown attached to, it’s the people who make up the country. The Spanish friends I have made have been one of the best parts of this entire experience, and I hope I have made just as much of an impact on them as they have on me. I love that they’re interested in my life back home, and the coolest thing about hanging out with younger Spaniards is attempting to learn more slang.
I was a pretty independent person before I left for Spain, but now I have a whole new meaning to independence. I have demonstrated this in many different aspects. Traveling alone to different countries where I don’t speak the language, learning to adapt to new unusual resources (less resources at that), navigating around a continent at 21 years old when I have hardly been outside of the country except for Canada at about 12 years old (that doesn’t count).
This has been the most amazing experience of my entire life and I so wish I could be here for an entire year. One of my best friends here, Shelby, is here for a year and she’s really upset that I’m leaving next month because she doesn’t want to have to go through the process of making new friends all over again. But I’ve already made plans to visit my closest friends across the country once we’re all back in the States. My best friend Chelsea here only lives 12 and a half hours driving distance away from me. So I know all of us can make it happen.
I chose the perfect city in Spain to soak up the Spanish culture while learning some things about Arabic culture at the same time. I never realized how huge our world is but how tiny and insignificant I can feel at the same time. Laying in the Sahara Desert, stargazing, made me realize how truly small and insignificant I am in this universe. I always dreamed of traveling the world but I never actually thought those dreams would be fulfilled. It all just seemed like places I would study on a map, in a book, in middle school but never actually get to see.
I can’t even put into the right words how much studying abroad has changed my life. I will never be the same again, and half of my heart will always remain in Spain while chunks will remain in all of the other places I have had the opportunity to visit.
This past weekend (well, 6 days in total) I spent in Morocco, Africa. Lots of positives but also some negatives to the trip as a whole. I came out of the trip with a whole new outlook on life, but I also came out of the trip a little under the weather and having developed a new hatred toward buses. We spent WAY too many hours on a bus this past week. I wanna say like 40-50 in total. I can’t feel my ass. Not only because of that, but because of a 2 hour long camel ride. I’m not complaining about though, probably one of the top 5 highlights of my life.
Alright so that’s the end of my complaining toward the experience. We spent the first day traveling. Bus to ferry to bus, then we finally arrived to our hotel in Fes, Morocco. They claimed that the hotel was a 4-star hotel (meaning it was 3-star in Spain standards) but it’s been a really long time since I have slept on such a comfortable bed. It was more comfortable than my bed in my home-stay in Spain. It was at least long enough for my feet to not dangle off haha. I got to room with my 2 friends from back home in Missouri, one is currently studying in Sevilla and the other in Málaga. So that was really cool. We went to bed early that night because we were tired from traveling. The second day was spent in the Medina of Fes. 600,000 people live in the Medina which is made up of around 9,000 small alleyway/roads. No one in the Medina has health insurance or has to pay taxes, everyone pretty much does their own thing. Here’s an overlook of the Medina…
We spent about 6 hours shopping in the Medina, where I completed all of my Christmas shopping. Most of us got ripped off at least one time while shopping but I guess that’s part of the experience, right? That night we went to a Moroccan show with typical Moroccan music and belly-dancing. Then the next morning is when we left to head to the Sahara desert. We spent 2 nights camping out in the desert. The first day we got to the desert it was pretty late because it was a long day of traveling. Everyone was ready to be there. We took old jeeps that held 6 people each to get out to the desert which was a lot of fun but I wished my driver would have driven faster. We stopped in the middle of the desert somewhere to take pictures on top of the jeeps and my friends and I (Chelsea, Courtney, Mariah, Miles, and Steven) had an intense bonding moment while we were sitting on top of the jeep and all witnessed the same shooting star at the same time and simultaneously became scared because we thought we were going to die. It was amazing. The pictures taken directly after were even more amazing. Then we got to camp and picked out our tents with little cots in them.
Super cold at night but a sauna during the day. We just all snuggled to stay warm, it wasn’t too bad. One of my favorite parts of the whole experience was laying out in the dunes at night and looking at the stars. I have never seen such amazing stars in my entire life. It made me realize how small and insignificant I truly am in this universe. I think I had some sort of epiphany that made me want to take a class on astronomy haha. Also watching the sunrise in the Sahara was top 5 most beautiful sights of my life. We had a Berber (one of the Nomads living in the desert) take my friend Chelsea and I to one of his favorite spots in the desert to watch the sun rise. It was a long trek especially since I had a cold, but entirely worth it. He also drew our names in the sand, took pictures of us, encouraged us to slide down the sand dunes, and the list goes on. His name was Yusuf (José in español, Joseph in english).
Alright and then later that day… we rode camels. I could hardly contain my excitement. We rode them for TWO hours. I’m still hurting from it. It was an amazing experience, kind of sad that we are using the camels for entertainment but hey, what else are they here for really? We rode our camels into the pueblo where we then went to this building with a pool and cooled off our dehydrated selves in the pool (well, we stuck our feet in the pool.. close enough). My favorite part of the trip was interacting with all of the children we came across.
These kids are completely content kicking around empty water bottles in the sand and doing backflips off of the tops of dunes. Such simple people. Content with what they have even though what they have is so close to nothing. It’s embarrassment to think of all of the greedy, materialistic nonsense that goes on in America. We need to cherish the people in our lives before they’re taken away. We need to start loving people again, not things.