A year is a very long time.

What began as a semester in Sevilla somehow turned into three. Since my last post: I went to work at a summer camp in Ireland, spent the end of Summer home in Minnesota, Came back to Sevilla in the Fall to study as well as continue my job as an au pair, went home for the holidays and ended up in Sevilla once more to study this Spring.  In short, it went something like this…

Spain–> Ireland–> America–> Spain–> America–> Spain

A ton of great things have happened in the past year, and at the top of that list is that I can speak Spanish.  It may appear as an obvious occurance after living here so long, but it is amazing the number of study abroad students who come to Spain with little knowledge of the language and leave having only enriched their vocabulary with the word chupito (shot) and maybe dame (give me) if they’re lucky.  I’m going to be honest here and say that for the first three months here that was me.

Pre-departure there is this majestic image put out that all of a sudden you get to your destination abroad country and become instantly fluent in the language.  However, like 2Pac at Coachella this year, this majestic image is completely false. Learning a language is hard and takes a surprising amount of effort.  Classes and living in a home stay are great assets, but its during the other 80% of the time when not at home or in class that most students find it difficult to keep up the practice. Upon arrival, myself, like many study abroad students, stuck to what I knew.  I only went out with the Americans from my program, and for the most part that was to sponsored events with free sangria where only other guiris (foreigners) would show up.  I had an awesome time, made great friends, and did all the other amazing things that go along with study abroad, except one thing, I hadn’t learned the language.  Then came May.  The program ended and all the Americans left, but I stuck around working as an au pair.  It came down to two options: stay at home and play on Facebook in my off-time, or go out and learn the language.  I picked the latter of the two and can now happily say I speak Spanish, but getting here didn’t come without its share of difficulty and embarrassment (heavy on the embarrassment).

In the beginning without the comfort of other Americans, I met a whole lot of people who for lack of better/appropriate words, weren’t so great.  It didn’t matter what time of day it was or where I was at, as a blonde haired blue eyed American with a poor understanding of Spanish I was a prime target for sleazy pickup lines. Imagine you meet some guy or girl and when you strike up a conversation with them they respond with things like, “I like to make skiing” and, “I have 21 butt holes” (in Spanish, año means year, whereas ano means butt hole).  Lets be real, unless you want in their pants or are an insanely kind-hearted person, the chances of striking up a genuine friendship are pretty slim. Fortunately, through the process of talking with all those not so great people, I managed to meet some of the insanely kind-hearted ones who had a genuine interest in friendship and helping me learn Spanish.  It was a slow process and remains a constant work in progress, but is completely doable.  Effort and dedication are clutch. Basically take a look at all the posters  in Barney Stinson’s office and then apply that to learning a language.

I guess I wrote this so (hopefully) future study abroad students don’t have to feel as frustrated when learning a language, knowing that every student goes through it.  Also, for the parents of former, current and future study abroad students: if your kid comes back with less progress than anticipated, know that they learned more than you could imagine.  Language is only one of the elements that goes into making a study abroad experience. That’s all I have for now.  Shown below are an array of photos from the past year…

Playing with the kids at summer camp in Killarney, Ireland Back to Spain… Thanksgiving Halloween Playing at the beach Playing in Granada Favorite tapas bar

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