International Table

Wow time has flown! I have almost reached the halfway mark of my study abroad!

As I mentioned before, I am staying with a host family in Salamanca. My assumption going into this was that I would be staying in an apartment with the family I was assigned to and one other girl on our trip. When I walked into the apartment the first day almost three weeks ago, I noticed there were more bedrooms than expected but assumed they were the family’s bedrooms. At my first meal that night, I was in for a surprise.

Walking down the hallway to dinner, I heard talking from the kitchen. I couldn’t decipher a word of what they were saying. Great 12 years of Spanish and I can’t even understand what people are saying when I am in another country – off to a great start. I got to the table and was met by to friendly hellos. Within the next few sentences I discovered they were from Warsaw so they had been speaking Polish – what a relief that was to me. I quickly realized that all the rooms were for other students all studying abroad and trying to learn Spanish just like me. I got really excited to meet people from all over the world. We were also joined by a German boy, an Irish boy, and a friend of the host-family that was staying with us from Saudi Arabia.

 

I don’t think I have ever been in a more diverse place than at that little dinner table in our little kitchen. There were Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, and non-religious people all at the same table conversing, laughing, attempting tongue twisters in other languages, and learning from one another. We spent a lot of time at the table getting to know each other and making fools out ourselves trying to pronounce words in other languages.

 

Here’s a fun German tongue twister you should try:

Es klapperten die Klapperschlangen,
bis ihre Klappern schlapper klangen.

(The rattlesnakes rattled
until their rattles sounded run-down.)

 

It was so cool to have so many conversations about topics that society usually frowns upon. We talked about our home countries, our dreams, religion, politics, and so much more. It was cool that we were able to do all of this without upsetting anyone or raising conflict while talking about some very controversial topics. And I think this was all because we were all so curious to learn about how each other were raised and the similarities and differences between our lives and beliefs.

I was amazed at how much each one of them knew about what was going on with America’s Politics right now as it is election year. They loved to talk about Obama and the current presidential nominee race. They had their own opinions about the candidates and wanted to know our opinions. I can remember sitting after dinner for over an hour just talking about politics and what each candidate brought to the table and the pros and cons for each.

It was conversations like these that really reminded me of America’s importance in the world today. As one of the leading economies and powers in the world, our presidential elections are very important to other countries in the world because our decision will probably affect them in some way.
I think in America it is easy to be isolated from the rest of the world. First because we are fairly large and don’t share borders with that many countries unlike countries in Europe. In addition, I feel like our news is mostly focused on things going on in America and the world that directly affect America. As a nation, I think we are very isolated from the rest of the world and self-center and mostly just concerned about ourselves. Talking with the others that I am staying with showed me this just by the amount of knowledge 15-17 year olds from other countries knew about stuff going on in the US. I couldn’t tell you the latest news about Ireland, Germany or Poland or probably any European country for that matter.

This experience has challenged me to 1) be more updated on America’s news. I often don’t spend time reading the news during the day because “I’m too busy.” I believe it is necessary to be informed and I am challenging myself to at least read each notification that I set up on my CNN app to stay updated. 2) I want to be more informed on what is going on in the world. I also downloaded and set up notifications with the BBC app to help keep me more informed about things going on in the world and not just America.

 

Unfortunately, as I return home from our week trip to Andalucía, I come home to an empty house. But I look forward to the next few weeks when more people arrive and I get to have conversation and make friends with people all around the world. What an amazing opportunity!!

 

XOXO,

Kaitlyn

 

 

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You Only Turn 20 Once

For starters, I think birthdays are one of the most awkward things ever. First of all, people are celebrating you and giving you all the attention when you literally did nothing to come into this world. My mom should get all the attention and credit for taking care of me for nine months and birthing me. Not an easy job, everyone should be celebrating her. Secondly, you run out of things to say once you have been told Happy Birthday for the um-teenth time, and you feel like you are just sadly repeating yourself over and over again. And finally, how awkward is it when everyone sings Happy Birthday to you. I know we have all been there multiple times. Like what do you do while a group of off-toned people attempt to sing this “wonderful” song to you – look at everyone else’s faces? Stare at the cake and candles pretending to be mesmerized by the little candles? do you just there awkwardly half-smiling and laughing?

Anyway, a birthday is usually a lovely day spent with your closest family and friends enjoying time together. I have always enjoyed having a May birthday because school is winding down and you can get with all your friends before summer starts. Or so that is how it was elementary through high school. In college, unfortunately my birthday is too late into May and everyone has gone home already. I have always been jealous of those who have a birthday during the school year and will have the chance to celebrate with their friends at school because I will never have that opportunity.

When I signed up for this trip I knew that I would be gone for my birthday and I didn’t know I felt about that. I was not home with my family for my birthday last year because I was working at Kanakuk and I won’t be home next year because I will be studying abroad in Cape Town, so I thought it would be nice to be home and spend that time with my family. Yes I know this sounds silly, but I was worried about how awkward it would be to celebrate my birthday with people I had only known for a week.

I should have learned by now that worry is just me not trusting and truly believing that God has a plan that is so much better than I could ever imagine. And yea it might sound a little silly that I was worried about having an awkward birthday but it ultimately stemmed from me being concerned about not making good friends on this trip. This is always a concern I have when I am put in a new situation – like going to college, working at Kanakuk, ect. But every time I can say that he has always provided such wonderful friends that speak truth into my life; however, I still had doubt and was convinced that I would be stuck in Spain with people I didn’t connect to for 5 weeks.

But boy, thankfully I was wrong. God provides like he always does. And not only did he provide, but did so in an even better way than I would have thought possible. My host mom was wonderful and cooked a tasty lunch for me and even went out to buy a treat for me when I know that she does not have a lot of extra money lying around to spend on that type of stuff. Everyone on the trip made me feel so loved and we had a Tapas Tour that lasted four hours. (We hopped from restaurant to restaurant eating Tapas as a meal.) There was even cake! And what was even better was I was surrounded by people that I can truly call my friends even though we have only spent a week with each other. I could not think of a better way to celebrate my birthday (except maybe flying all my friends and family out to Spain and having one big fiesta). I am so excited to spend the next 4 weeks traveling Spain with these wonderful people and
Shout out to all my friends at home who made me feel so loved even though I was not home in the Fort to celebrate with everyone there. And an even bigger shout out to my family for being selfless and making me feel so loved 8,000 miles from home and sacrificing for me that I may have this amazing opportunity to study abroad in Spain. Love y’all and miss y’all!

 

XOXO,

Kaitlyn

Thankful for America

Wow, I can not believe I have already been in Spain a week and I’m almost done with my first week of classes here in Salamanca. I feel like it was just yesterday when I decided that I wanted to go on this trip this summer. And just like that here I am! It really hasn’t set in that Salamanca will be my home for the next four and a half weeks.

In the week I have been in Spain, I feel like I have already seen so much of Spain and learned so much about its history and culture. We spent the first three days in Madrid touring the city and walking and walking and more walking. (One day my iPhone counted 30,000 steps!! EEKKK don’t know how my feet are still attached!!) Madrid was great, but it just felt like any other big European city to me – lots of cars, lots of people, and very industrial.

I was relieved to leave the big city and take a day trip to Toledo. Toledo was a cute, little town southwest of Madrid. I immediately fell in love with the little fortress village next to the Tajo River. I wish we could have spent another day or so walking and exploring the little streets of Toledo. I would go back in a heartbeat.

Now I am in Salamanca taking Spanish Immersion classes to finish my Spanish Minor. Usually my day consists of 4 and a half hours of Spanish language and culture classes in the morning with some type of activity in the afternoon. (These activities have ranged from touring sites of Salamanca to cooking class and Salsa lessons.)

In my short week and a half, I have already learned so many differences between Spain and America. Quickly, became thankful for many things in America. Now I don’t want anyone to read this and think that I am complaining about any of this. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to Study Abroad in Spain for 5 and a half weeks. These are just differences in culture and things I am learning to adjust to as I live with a wonderful host family in Spain. 

 

10 Things I am Thankful For

  1. Thankful for Normal Eating Hours

After our first day of touring Madrid, our tour guide Mar asked us if we wanted to meet for dinner at 8:30 in the lobby. I would have loved to see our faces from her point of view. She looked at us confused and timidly asked if we would like to meet at 9. Our jaws could not drop any lower. Since this experience, I have learned that snacks are my best friend with lunches consistently at 2 and dinner at 9. After a week and a half, I am still not used to this and snacks are still my saving grace throughout the day.

Even though the long times between meals stinks, I do really appreciate the European dinner culture. Nothing is rushed. People sit around and enjoy the company that they have. In America, it is too common to a whole family at dinner on their cell phones and not talking to each other. I have yet to see this in Europe. People are always relaxed, laughing, and enjoying each others company. Yes, dinners may take 3 and a half hours and sometimes you find yourself leaving a restaurant at 11:30, but these dinners are some of my best memories so far.

 

2. Thankful for Water Fountains and Free Water

In America, I definitely take advantage of how easy it is to get water. We have water fountains everywhere, and if you can’t find one you can walk into a restaurant and get a free cup of water. I have yet to find one water fountain in Europe. And even when I have attempted to order tap water trying to avoid paying 2 euros for a bottle of water, the waitor looks at me funny and still brings me a bottle of water. (Maybe it is the slightly broken Spanish, oops.)

 

3. Thankful for Air Conditioning

Thankfully, this has not been too much of a problem yet as it has been a little chilly in Salamanca. However, during the day it gets quiet warm in the apartment I am staying in and I can only imagine that it will continue to get warmer as summer progresses. I definitely take for granted electricity and the privileges of having A/C at home. I can complain so much if it isn’t cool enough in the house even though it is much cooler than that Texas heat outside. And I can be so wasteful of it and forget that there are so many people that get by just find without it in places much hotter than where I am. It will be a good lesson in learning to cope with situations and learn to complain less about trivial things.

 

4. Thankful for Showers

I have no idea who designed these showers in the apartment I am staying in, but it was a horrible idea. So practically, my shower is about 2 x 3 feet and most of it is sloped so I really can only get in it and stand in one place. Also the shower curtain doesn’t have the shower protector so if the shower head decides to have a mind of its own (which it does often) it sprays the entire bathroom making it nearly impossible not to slip when trying to get out of the shower. Our Spanish mom has also asked that we take short showers because water bills are so expensive in Spain. Wow, just another wasteful thing that I take advantage of each day that I am in the shower. Sometimes I like to try to collect my thoughts in the shower and plan out the next day, but I guess I am going to have to save that for when I am not in shower.

 

5. Thankful for Technology

Now don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed the break from technology and constantly feeling like I need to check Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or text someone. However, it is so nice that I have technology that I can use to communicate with my family back home. I don’t know how I would make it through the summer without being able to talk to my family and friends some so I can still be informed about what is going on in their lives. ONe thing I hate most about traveling for long periods of times is not knowing what is going on in the lives of my closest friends. The distance and the time zone difference  really challenges me to make time to catch up with friends and be intentional about trying to find a time that is convenient for both of us to catch up. However, all of this just makes the reunion at the end of the summer even sweeter.

 

6. Thankful for Ice

I did not realize how much ice makes a difference in a glass of water until I arrived in Spain. Room temperature water is just not as satisfying on a warm summer day as a nice cold cup of water. Unless you specifically ask for ice at restaurant, it is very likely you will not be served ice in your drink. And even at the hotel we stayed at in Madrid, the “ice bucket” at the breakfast buffet had just enough ice for a tumbler cup. At restaurants even if you ask for ice, you get about three ice cubes in your cup. For some reason, Europeans just don’t like ice as much as Americans do.

 

7. Thankful for my Bed

I love beds that I can sink into. Unfortunately my bed for the next five weeks is as stiff as a rock. (Ok, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration. It really isn’t that bad, and I have been able to sleep fine.) My mom and I have a name for these beds – Mexico Beds. Those bed that you can crawl into and you feel like you can’t even make a dent into them. We have encountered countless of these types of beds in Mexico, thus how they got the name. Well, I can say I am thoroughly looking forward to the moment when I get to crawl into my memory foam mattress at the end of summer.

 

8. Thankful for Meats that aren’t Ham

Ham is literally everywhere! You can’t walk down a street in Spain without seeing pig legs hanging from the ceiling of at least one store. Spanish people love their ham. Ham and cheese sandwiches, ham in their croquettes, ham on pizza, ham in pasta, ham in their salad… You name it they probably eat it that way.The ham has been amazing; however, I am in need of a Texas steak or a nice filet of fish after almost two weeks of just ham.

 

9. Thankful for English

I can’t even begin to explain how wonderful English can sound after four hours of Spanish classes every day. (Or on days like today when we had to do make-up classes for the classes we will be missing next week when we go to Sevilla, Granada, and Cordoba and had 8 hours of Spanish classes today.) English is such a universal language too. Everyone knows English these days which is really awesome for anyone who speaks English. There are students from Germany, Poland, France, and Ireland currently staying with and thankfully they all know English. We have had so many cool conversations because everyone knows English and have really gotten to know some cool stuff about each of the countries they are from because of English.

 

10. Thankful for America

Man, in case you were wondering America rocks. You may not be a fan of Obama or not agree with some policies that America has, but you can not disagree that you are not blessed to be living in America. Our economy may not be at its highest, but as a nation we are doing alright. Our health care may not be perfect, but there are so many more places where it is worse off. We maybe always wanting more and seeking more, but most of us really have more than we really need. We have freedom of speech, freedom to elect our officials, freedom of religion, and so much more. I am loving my time in Spain, but as I am here and learn about other countries, I realized how blessed we really are.

 

Once again, I don’t want you to see this as me complaining about anything. I am truly thankful for this opportunity and for the Spanish family I am staying with to open their house to me and students like me who are studying Spanish. I can’t wait to see what else I learn about myself, Spain, and the people around me as I continue life as a “local” in Spain!

 

XOXO,

Kaitlyn