Life of an Exchange Student

I write when I am either frustrated and need to vent, or inspired and want to share. For example, I was inspired to write ‘Finding your Happy Place’ and frustrated enough to write “The Weekend from Hell’. For a while now, however, I have been neither inspired nor incredibly frustrated, which means that writing requires a lot more effort. That’s not to say that I haven’t been doing anything, au contraire, I’ve been pretty busy with volleyball, tutoring sessions (yes, I am now a tutor!), school and weekend excursions with the rest of the students from Rollins. I definitely have a lot of material to work with, but for some reason every time I sit myself down to write, I find myself distracted by other things. Thus, instead of writing in great detail about one experience or place, I’m going to break this into sections and write a little bit about everything I’ve been doing.

Siempre escribo cuando estoy estresada y necesito desahogarme, o cuando estoy inspirada y quiero compartir mi experiencia. Por ejemplo, yo estaba inspirada para escribir “Finding Your Happy Place” y estaba tan estresada que escribí “The Weekend from Hell”. Pero durante un tiempo ahora, no me he sentido estresada ni inspirada así que escribir es mas difícil. No quiero decir que no he estado haciendo cosas, al contrario, he estado muy ocupada con voleibol, la universidad, las clases de ingles (si, soy profesora ahora!), y los viajes con los demás chicos de Rollins. Entonces, tengo mucho material con el que puedo trabajar, pero por alguna razón cada vez que siento e intento escribir, no puedo. Entonces, en vez de escribir solo una experiencia o un día con pelos y señales, voy a romper este blog en secciones y escribir un poco sobre todo lo que he estado haciendo.

Volleyball

I guess I’ll begin with volleyball. It’s been about month since I started practicing and playing with the team, and it has been interesting to say the least. I played volleyball in high school and wasn’t half-bad, I even played club ball for a close to a year. Unfortunately, my long absence from the sport combined with my inability to understand the coach (his accent is especially difficult), has made me less than stellar. Because of my height (especially obvious in Spain), the coach thought my level was close to professional and because I could talk to the girls on the team, he thought I was basically fluent in Spanish. This led to me playing in my first game, not knowing the names of any of the positions, running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Not my proudest moment. Apart from disappointing the coach however, it has been a pretty positive experience. The girls on the team are awesome. One of them is even teaching me French to help prepare me for my trip to Paris. So if you see a tall, female American wondering around Paris speaking French with a heavy Spanish accent, don’t be afraid to say hi, it’s probably me.

Voleibol 

Supongo que empezaré con voleibol. Hace un mes más o menos, que comencé a practicar con el equipo, y ha sido interesante por no decir menos. Jugué en secundaria, incluso jugué en un club por un año. Desafortunadamente, mi larga ausencia del juego combinada con el hecho de que casi no puedo entender al entrenador (su acento es muy difícil de entender), me ha sido menos que fantástico. Por mi altura, el entrenador pensaba que yo era una profesional o algo así, y porque podia hablar con las chicas en el equipo, él pensaba que era casi bilingüe. Esto me llevó a mi primer partido sin saber los nombres de las posiciones, corriendo como un pollo degollado. Sí, no es mi momento más orgulloso. Pero a parte de eso, ha sido una experiencia muy buena. Las chicas en el equipo son la leche. Una de ellas esta enseñándome francés para prepararme para Paris. Así que ustedes ven a una Americana alta, andando por Paris, hablando en francés con un acento español, deben decir hola porque, probablemente, soy yo.

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School 

I am currently taking classes in a specific part of La Universidad de Oviedo which is called La Casa de Las Lenguas (The House of Languages). Here, exchange students from all over the world take classes that help them learn Spanish. I am currently taking Art, History, Oral Expression, and English to Spanish translation. Although I should be in the advanced levels for all of my classes, I chose to remain in intermediate for several reasons. First, advanced and intermediate count for the same amount of credit at Rollins College, and second, with everything else going on, I simply don’t have time for too much homework.

The classes themselves are pretty good. I’m especially enjoying Art, where I’m learning the latin roots of a lot of words, and History where we just finished watching Gladiator in Spanish. The students in La Casa de Las Lenguas are usually American or Chinese and in their late teens or early twenties. It’s absolutely fascinating to hear the accent of the Chinese students and I find it impressive that there are so many in my English to Spanish translation class.

La Universidad

Estoy tomando clases en La Casa de las Lenguas, que es una parte de la universidad de Oviedo. Aquí, estudiantes internacionales de todo el mundo, estudian y toman clases para aprender español. Yo tengo clases de Arte, Historia, Expresión Oral y Tradución Ingles a Español. Las clases son muy buenas, especialmente Arte, donde estoy aprendiendo las raíces de las palabras. Los estudiantes en La Casa de las Lenguas son normalmente americano o chino y de edad joven (como 19 o 20). El acento de los estudiantes chinos es muy interesante y estoy impresionada que hay muchos chinos en mi clase Traducción Ingles a Español.

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Me, Catey and Sara (my conversation partner), taking a break from school and enjoying a club night in Gijón

Tutoring

The classes in school are fine, but they pale in comparison to my tutoring skills! (just kidding, I’m still figuring this whole teaching thing out). My host mom put a tutoring add on some website when I first got to Spain, and I finally got a a response about two weeks ago. So now I am the proud tutor of a fifteen year old boy named Sergio. He’s planning on spending the next year in Ireland, but he still isn’t comfortable having a conversation in English, so it’s my job to prepare him. I will admit it’s not as easy as I thought it would be. For one, it’s very hard to figure out his level of English; sometimes he seems to understand everything I say and sometimes he’s entirely lost. For another, it’s very hard to not speak to him in Spanish when he doesn’t understand my English. I constantly have to remind myself that I can’t just repeat my statement in Spanish, I must find another way of rephrasing what I said in English. The hardest part, however, has been finding fun vocabulary games for two people.

So far we’ve played ‘memory’ using different English verbs, good old twenty questions, and boogle. I’ve even had him listen to English songs while reading lyric sheets that I gave him and filling in the blanks. Does anyone know any other games we could play?

Las Clases de Ingles

Las clases de la universidad son buenas pero son nada en comparación a mis clases de ingles (estoy bromeando todavía estoy aprendiendo como ser profesora). Hace un mes, mi mamá española puso un anuncio online que dijo que yo era un nativo en ingles y que yo podia enseñar, y por fin, recibí una respuesta hace dos semanas. Ahora, soy la profesora de un chico de 15 años se llama Sergio. El va a vivir en Irlanda durante el próximo año, pero todavía falta mucho con gramática y vocabulario. Tengo que admitir que enseñar no es fácil. Es muy difícil averiguar el nivel de ingles de Sergio porque a veces al puede entender casi todo, y a veces ni una sola palabra. También es muy difícil encontrar juegos divertidos de vocabulario para dos personas. Ya hemos jugado ‘memoria’ usando palabras en ingles, 20 preguntas y Boogle. Alguien sabe mas juegos que podemos jugar?

 

Excursions

Finally, to end the post I’m just going to quickly mention that I was lucky enough to visit both Ribadesella, (almost as beautiful as Santiago de Compostela–definitely a must see!),  and León, which has beautiful cathedrals.

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I only have one picture of Ribadesella, but If you go to my friend Mary’s blog, there are a ton

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Catedral de León

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So that’s what I’ve been up to. I hope you have enjoyed reading and if you know of any fun vocabulary games, please let me know.

 

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The Weekend from Hell

You know that old saying ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?’ Well in my experience life will sometimes give you lemons, sometimes it even gives you a freshly squeezed lemonade with a little umbrella straw, and then sometimes it gives you rocks instead of lemons and instead of handing them to you, it throws them at you while giggling like an immature child. Unfortunately for me, life has picked me for target practice these last couple of days and has proceeded to bombard me with a shower of lemon-shaped rocks.

It all began yesterday (a Thursday for those who aren’t up to speed with the calendar). It was a Spanish holiday so there wasn’t any school and all of my friends had gone to go traveling over the long weekend (I elected to stay behind so I could hopefully play in my first volleyball game on Saturday). I woke up Thursday morning completely stuffed. I couldn’t breath out of my nose and phlegm wads were ensconcing themselves comfortably in the depths of my throat (wow, who knew something so gross could be described so poetically?). Needless to say I did not feel my best at that moment. Nevertheless, I got up, persevered and went to the gym (I’m really proud of myself for that btw). When I got back I was exhausted so I basically spent the day on the sofa doing absolutely nothing productive, and falling deeper into the rabbit hole that is Youtube. At around 9:00 pm, I finally stopped watching videos and eating cold pasta long enough to call Siubhan, (a.k.a. my number 1 home skillet) back in Illinois. We talked until she had to go to class then I watched a couple more movies and tried to go to bed. Not being able to breathe made falling asleep pretty hard, but the worst part was my hair. For some reason my head itched like the dickens. After a good thirty minutes of restlessness and scratching, it slowly dawned on me that I had felt the exact same itchiness before…in sixth grade…when the school had an outbreak of, wait for it, lice…shit. I tried to remember when exactly my head started itching but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like it had been itchy for a while. The only place I thought I could have gotten it was from sharing hairbands during practice on the volleyball team.
Once I had the idea of lice on my head there was no way in hell I was going back to sleep. I knew no pharmacy would be open or else I would have run down there and bought every bottle of lice shampoo they had. Instead, I frantically searched the Internet scouring for any homemade treatments I could use as a substitute. I finally found a simple one involving coconut oil. Fervently thanking past Shannon for packing coconut oil, I began scooping copious amounts onto my head. I was a tad overzealous with it, however, because when I stood up to find a shower cap, a huge glob splattered around my feet. Not really caring, I jump over the gelatinous mess, shoved a make-shift, plastic-bag shower cap on my head, and set the timer for two hours. Waiting was horrible, now that I had the lice image stuck in my head, I could feel the little critters crawling around in my hair. When the two hours were up I took a hot shower, vigorously washing my hair, got out and inspected the bath water. And sure enough I found one. At least I think I did. It wasn’t moving or anything, but I could see the tiny little legs. Throughly freaking out by this point, I run back to my room to start tearing off the bedsheets, trying to resist the urge to scream and/or light my hair on fire. In my panic, I failed to see the giant glob of coconut oil on the floor. I fell. Hard. And let out a stream of impressive curse words in both English and Spanish. Now, my friends, as impossible as this may seem, all of Thursday night was just a light drizzle of lemon-rocks, the real storm came today.

My host mom had heard my fall and subsequent cursing and came into my room at 5:00 in the morning to see numerous garbage bags sitting on a completely naked mattress. She asked me what I was doing and I, almost ready to cry, told her that I had lice (fun fact: lice=piojos in Spanish). I honestly wasn’t sure how she was going to react. There’s an old (and completely untrue I might add) stigma that only dirty people get lice. Would she accuse me of infesting her house and kick me out into the streets (hey, in my sleep-deprived brain that seemed entirely conceivable). But, she took it surprisingly well and basically told me to calm down, that lice aren’t fatal and they’re a lot easier to deal with than bedbugs. After making sure I wasn’t having a complete meltdown, she headed back to her room and I tried to catch a couple hours of sleep while sitting at my desk.

I awoke several hours later and if I thought my cold was bad Thursday, Friday it got  worse. Now added to my stuffed nose and phlegmy tubes was an inability to speak without, wait for it, hacking a phlegm ball (I know, my sexiness surprises even me sometimes). Anyways I had class at 9:00 but I didn’t want to wear a sweatshirt because anything I wore before buying the lice-killing shampoo was going straight into the wash. So I ran to school to keep warm, hocking a loogie every few feet. I forgot the money for the lice shampoo back at the house so after class, I headed back home to get it. Once there, my host mom told me that we needed actual dryers to kill the little buggers, and since she didn’t have one, she gave me directions to the nearest laundromat. So I headed to the the laundromat, 20 euros in my pocket, a giant garbage bag in each hand, snuffling and hacking spitballs, and with only the slightest sense of where to go. I started off pretty confidently, all things considered. It took me a good twenty-five minutes to find the laundromat and by that time my arms were pretty tired. The only person in the laundromat was an older gentleman, closing his eyes and listening to some music. I decided not to disturb him and figured out how to load and pay for the washing machine by myself. Unfortunately, the laundromat was a lot more expensive than I thought it would be. It was 10 euros every load in the big machine, which I had to use twice. Thus, I had no money for the dryers, which were the main reasons I had come in the first place. I was in luck however, right across the street was an ATM, I could simply take out some money, while keeping an eye on my clothes. I was at the ATM for a good twenty minutes trying to figure out why it kept telling me my PIN number was wrong. Finally, frustrated beyond belief, I called my dear old Pops. He told me that the PIN number was actually different but because I had tried so many times, they had locked my card for 24 hours. Perfect. I had no other choice than to drag two large, dripping garbage bags twenty five minutes back to my apartment, then return to actually dry them. This was just a little overwhelming for me (did I mention I was also on my period and thus more emotionally fragile than usual?). Anyways, what all this leads to is the following scene: I’m walking down the street, pissed off, tired, walking with a slight limp, dragging two wet garbage bags behind me and probably looking like I’m about to cry. I suddenly see a grocery store right in front of me and decide to check and see if they have the lice shampoo. They don’t. As I walk out the door to leave the lady at the cash register starts yelling at me. I turn around to see her running towards me, and of course, the first response my tired brain comes up with is ‘let’s run too!’. So I start running. It must’ve looked kind of strange; a cashier chasing down what could have been very tired, skinny Santa Claus hauling ass with trash bags flying out behind her. Well it didn’t take long for the cashier to catch up to me (even though I was carrying bags and had a limp it was still pretty embarrassing). She grabbed one of my trash bags and ripped it open. When she saw a pile of wet clothes and bed covers she looked confused and then turned bright red and apologized to me. I opened my mouth to tell her it was fine, and instead of words, I got a mouthful of phlegm. Unable to spit it out without the crowd around us seeing, I could only nod and kind of hum my lips together. So yeah…that was the beginning of my weekend, how was yours?

Author note: originally I wasn’t going to post this because it seemed kind of gross, but if I talk about the wonders and beauty of traveling and being in Spain, I think it’s only right that I mention some of the not so fun parts.

*Este vez no he escrito un sección en Español! Lo siento mucho! Intentaré hacer uno mañana.

Btw. I have my first volleyball game tomorrow, fingers crossed it goes well!

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Actually this was taken during San Mateo, but I felt like I needed to end the post with a happy bang (get it? no? Don’t worry it was pretty bad).

Finding your Happy Place (Santiago de Compostela)

Mi historia empieza un Jueves. Yo necesitaba unas vacaciones (si, yo se que estoy en España pero todavía las necesitaba) entonces Mary y yo compramos billetes a Santiago de Compostela y La Coruña para el fin de semana. Llegamos a Santiago de Compostela a las 9:00 mas o menos y fuimos al hostel se llama Albergues Semenario Menor (16 euros cada noche). Había muchos peregrinos en el hostel y con mis pantalones tipo cargo y mi cabello loco, parecía una peregrina también (un hombre me dijo ‘buen camino’). La primera noche, no vimos la ciudad, solo comimos la cena que Mary había traído en nuestros cuartos. Pero el día siguiente, exploramos la ciudad y me di cuenta que Santiago de Compostela es un lugar especial. Es muy difícil explicar porque tienes que ir a Santiago de Compostela para entender completamente como es, pero voy a intentarlo.

Imagina que estas sentado en una plaza. El sol se esta poniendo y hay música de gaitas en el aire. Todo a tu alrededor son personas: ancianas, jóvenes, familias, parejas y peregrinos. Todos están hablando en otros idiomas: inglés, ruso, aleman, francés y español. Cierras los ojos y escuchas todas las voces diferentes. En tu mano tienes un bocadillo gigante de jamón y queso. Sabe delicioso. La luz del sol poniente esta calentando tu cara. Respiras el aire libre y olvidas, por un momento, todas las cosas negativas en tu vida. Eso es Santiago de Compostela. Estar allí, me hizo feliz.

He oído una frase hecha, ‘Hay algunos lugares donde uno se queda y otros que se quedan en uno’ creo que esto describe Santiago de Compostela perfectamente. Estoy segura de que volveré.

I needed a vacation (yes, I know I’m in Spain but I needed one nevertheless). Thus, Mary and I made plans for a weekend trip to Santiago de Compostela and La Coruña. We planned to leave Thursday and spend the rest of our long weekend exploring the new cities. Thus, at five o’clock, we got on an ALSA bus heading to Santiago de Compostela. It was a pretty nice ride (I definitely recommend the ALSA bus company-very roomy seats with strong wifi and a lot of good entertainment). We got to Santiago de Compostela around 9:00 and headed straight to our hostel Albergues Semenario Menor. We didn’t really do anything the first night except eat some sandwiches Mary had brought for dinner. The following morning however, we went to the Pilgrims Mass in El Catedral de Santiago. The place was packed to bursting! There were pilgrims from all over the world, singing together and listening to the bishop (who happened to be from California). It was awesome. Afterwards, we explored the city and I soon fell head over heels in love with Santiago de Compostela.

Imagine for a moment that you’re wondering around an old plaza. On one side of the plaza is a beautiful hotel that looks like it emerged from an entirely different time period and right next to that hotel is a ledge overlooking the town below. The sun is setting, casting a golden glow on all your surroundings. The faint music of bagpipes wafts through the air, mixing with the sounds of a hundred different voices. You can discern half a dozen different languages from the surrounding conversations: Spanish, English, Russian, French and German. In your hand you’re holding a huge bocadillo (basically a sandwich made from a fresh loaf of bread). It tastes delicious. You close your eyes and let the warmth from the setting sun fill your eyelids and, just for a moment, you forget all the negative things in your life and just exist. That is Santiago de Compostela.

It’s no surprise to me that it is the end destination for the El Camino pilgrimage. To me, it’s like the embodiment of inner peace, except you don’t need a calmed mind or knack for meditation to find it. It’s just there, welcoming everyone who is lucky enough to find it.

Now before I end my blog post, I should probably talk a little about La Coruña. I think that if I had gone there before Santiago de Compostela, I would have loved it more, but after Santiago de Compostela it just seemed kind of- meh. It’s a nice city, there are some cool plazas and buildings whose stonework look strangely like lace, but I wouldn’t exactly call it the ’embodiment of inner peace’. That’s not to say there aren’t cool things to do in La Coruña. Mary and I visited a fascinating museum fortress-prison (free entrance!) called San Anton and also saw the Planetarium and Body Museum. Overall, La Coruña was rather difficult to get a read on. It felt more like an American city than Santiago de Compostela, but at the same time it was entirely different. I think I would go back if only to get better acquainted with the city and its vibe.

Thanks for reading and sorry for the wait. I joined a volleyball team last week (I know, I can’t believe it either!) so I’ve been pretty busy. I’ll explain more in the next blog

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The sunset I previously mentioned. PC: Mary

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PC: Mary (BTW check out her blog if you haven’t it’s awesome! Mary Vickers)

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I felt like I had found Narnia

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La Coruña: Plaza de Santa Maria

 

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The buildings I think look like lace

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Me standing next to the tallest man. Finally found my people.

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Rollins follows us #rollinslife

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San Anton

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La Coruña

 

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the Las Vegas Attack and all those struggling in Puerto Rico.