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The Start of My Spain Story

Hola! My name's Martha Connor and I'm a sophomore in high school from Charlotte, North Carolina. I've been living here in Spain for about 6 weeks but it honestly feels like I've been here my whole life (but in a good way!) I'm all situated into the daily routine and my family here; my new normal. I know it's a bit late to start my blog a month and a half in, but better late than never, right? To get the bad stuff out of the way, I'm going to start with the things I don't like about Spain. It consists of two things; there's no peanut butter, and lotion is called body milk. To be fair, you can find peanut butter, but it's hard to find and relatively expensive. I hate the body milk thing, though, there's no saving grace for that, it's just too weird. Back to peanut butter (focusing on the important things here) I do have a large container that I brought from the US, along with a LOT of Reece's Peanut Butter cups. Snack drawer
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So now we can focus on everything I like about Spain, which is... everything! I've made so many new friends (American and Spanish) and had many great experiences all in the few weeks I've been here. I absolutely love my host family, we couldn't have had a better match. 

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This picture was when I first met them and to be honest, I started crying when they walked in the door; I was so excited to meet them! The initial car ride home was a bit awkward, as I didn't know what to say to them or how to say it, I was still in shock! I quickly got over that and began telling them about me and they began telling me about them and Sevilla! The first few days I was getting used to everything and felt very separated from my host family. What really made me feel comfortable was about the third day in I just had a good cry with my host mom, Mayte. It sounds strange but once I opened up (and cried) I felt so much better. The first two weeks I called my mom in the US every night and we talked for a long time, but now I feel much more comfortable confiding in my friends and family here that I don't need to call her so much. Don't get me wrong, I definitely still call my mom and maybe even cry a little (surprise: I'm a crier!) but I don't need to rely on her like that now. I also keep a journal and write everything about my day in it every night and it's been a great way to both reflect on each day and to let my feelings out, so I highly recommend that. In addition to how it's great short-term, I know it will also be very fun to look back on in the future. 

Life here is wildly different from back at home, school included. Apart from the whole language situation (a whole other story) school here is much more fun and I really look forward to going everyday, rather than it being an unwanted requirement like at home. The school environment here is so different than what I'm used to. At home I have about 12 people in every class and we change rooms and everything for each class. Here, there's between 25 and 30 people in my class and mostly all the classes are in the same room. We change rooms for Music, Art, Physics, and of course gym, but everything else is in our same bright teal classroom. Also, everyone here is so supportive and bonded so tightly, that my class is literally like a big family; I sure can't say anything like that for my classes at home. Even with me, only being here for a few weeks, I feel so close to everyone. 

Something super different about Spain that I noticed very quickly, is that everyone is sooo touchy. Not touchy in a bad way like hey get offended easily, no, but touchy in a way like you'll be sitting doing work and your friend walks by and kisses your cheek or grabs your face (yeah there's a lot of face-grabbing it's a little weird). All this touch/human contact is definitely way different than anything I'm used to, but I'm loving it! Another big change between the States and Spain is the eating schedule. Here in Spain we eat breakfast like normal, then a big lunch around 2, then a big dinner around 9:30-10:30, and some snacks in-between. It's different, but I'm getting used to it. 

Every day is an adventure when you're studying abroad, with new people and experiences, so have fun while it lasts!

Plaza de espana group
Plaza de espana group

Honestly I could talk about my life in Spain all day, but I've got to end it somewhere. Hopefully I'll post more than once every 6 weeks, but we'll see! Adios!

If anyone has any questions or anything feel free to DM me on Instagram @Martha_dd

Biggest Differences

    I decided to mainly focus my blog on the differences I observe here in France, compared to my life in America.  While there are plenty of differences you would expect when going to France, there are also many small differences too that even two months in I am still noticing. For today, I chose the most noticeable or relevant differences:

  1. The TransportationWhile in some cities in America, public transportation is heavily relied on, my area is nothing like that. I live in Michigan and I have never taken a public city bus there in my entire life! I, and everyone I know, relies on cars as their only form of transportation. It's not even very common to walk places to get around; If I need something from the cvs down the street, I still drive my car to get there. Furthermore if I have somewhere far to go, I drive there as well. Here in France, however, this is completely different. The citizens aren't eligible to receive a driver's license until they are 18, so no one in high school is even able to drive! That means to get to school they either need a parent to drop them off or they can use public transportation. That is clearly a staple in French life because people from all ages use the tram, metro, and busses. Aside from that, people walk a lot more. It is not common to take their car short distances because it seems to me they are all very used to walking! This difference took some getting used to and honestly I miss driving, but I do think it is very interesting and convenient!
  2. The FashionWhen I say the fashion is different, I am mostly focusing on high school age students. The kids in my American school wear things like jeans, sweatpants, leggings, t-shirts, and other casual attire. They don't really try to keep it conservative or classy and if you dress fancy you will be asked why. I was fine with this- it's easy and quick to just throw casual attire on. In France, however, it's a completely different story. The students in my opinion dress like they're going out every day! They like to wear lots of fur, sparkles, gems and jewelry. Red lipstick is also extremely common, whereas in my school you would most likely be judged for wearing something that bold. The clothing and style in France is really cool to me because I feel like I can express myself more and put together interesting outfits with the confidence to wear them to school. Although, it is nice sometimes in Michigan to be able to wake up, throw on some sweatpants, and go.
  3. The StoresThe stores in Michigan are very generalized and typically have almost every category of item in each one. When people need their typical groceries, they go to the same store to get them. We have a few different grocery stores, some health food stores, and of course the bulk stores like Costco. In France, this is very different. While you can get a good amount of items from one store, this is typically not how they like to do things. The people here like to get their items from specialized stores such as bread from bakeries and meat from delis, rather than getting them both at a supermarket. This way they are getting more quality items as they are the focus of the business they're buying from. This is just a big difference to me personally because if I wanted a baguette one day in Michigan, I wouldn't look for a bakery nearby, I'd just head to the closest grocery store. Here in Toulouse, though, I would walk 30 seconds down the street to the bakery and buy one for .95 euro!

These are just some of the first big differences that come to mind, though there are plenty more. That's all for now, bonne journée!

Bienvenue! First Post!

 Hi everyone! My name is Lindsey Vassallo, and I am a participant in CIEE's high school abroad program. Currently, I am living it Toulouse, France for the second semester of my junior year. I have been interested in France and the French language since about eighth grade, and while I have been trying to learn the language since then, I am still not yet very fluent. I have also looked at boarding schools and schools in different locations for quite sometime, because I have always been ready to travel and live somewhere new! When I met an exchange student at my high school in Michigan, it made me think- why not combine a new school experience and French! I decided to start looking into programs and CIEE definitely seemed like a good choice. There were great reviews and the website was very informative; my mom and I thought it seemed like the best option. At first, when I told my mom I wanted to do this, she thought I was just talking as any teenager does. Little did she, or even I, know, months later we were preparing for me to go away to France!

    The traveling experience was great. I flew with my mom to New York where we waited for a little while before meeting up with the other kids going to France. They were immediately welcoming and I was glad that I was going to be accompanied by these people on my journey. Us students flew alone, with our supervisor also, to Madrid, then from there we went to Toulouse. Here is where we met our host families and said goodbye to Nate. My host mother picked me up from the airport and took me home to meet the rest of my new host family- her three sons. All three are very nice, though I have only seen the eldest once because he lives in Spain. I get along with my host family very well, and after a month I think there is finally a more sibling-like relationship with me and the two boys. We all eat together and talk, and I always feel included in all their activities. I truly think they want me to have a good experience and I feel very lucky to have been placed with them.

    So far, I am loving the country. My visit here has already caused me to start considering a gap year in France or even attending a French University. I love the atmosphere and I cannot even imagine leaving! There has a been a lot of walking, a lot of shopping, and a LOT of eating. I am excited for what is to come, and in later posts I will go into details about the activities I have done so far.

A tout à l'heure!

October-December/Winter Break (十月から十二月まで・冬休み)

I haven't written a post in a while so this one will be kind of lengthy to catch you guys up.

October

    Early October, we had two new exchange students from Australia come to my school from a different program. For their privacy I'll use their initials. There was a boy (P) and a girl (L).  They got put into the first-years classes.

    Some classmates of mine, P, and I went to help out at a shrine near my school called tōfukuji (東福寺). The shrine is very popular in the autumn due to the leaves changing colour. If you're in Kyoto I recommend you to take a look around. That weekend there was some event and there were booths around selling sweets, alcohol, and souvenirs. The people we helped out were some college students that were doing surveys, asking foreigners things like: "why'd you come to tōfukuji?" and "how do you like it?" It was fun handing the surveys out at first but then it started raining. It was difficult to balance an umbrella while handing out papers and pens but we managed.

    Late October the English club (ESS) had a Halloween party. It's the only time of the year you're allowed to wear something other than your uniform at school. Even if you go to school for an event during the weekend you have to go in your uniform, so it was fun seeing everyone's costumes. Some people went all out and put on a face full of makeup and contacts and others just wore a hat and glasses. We ate snacks, played games, and carved pumpkins.

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November

    November was probably the month where I had the most fun. It mostly consisted of hanging out at Hello Village- a room in my school where people can study English and also where ESS is held- after school and during test week playing Connect Four, chess and cards. I met a lot of people that month from the other classes. Normally there isn't a chance to talk to them so I'm glad that I got to. One of the girls that I met also takes the same train as me to go to school/go home. One day we ran into each other on the train and since then we've been friends.

    The movie "IT" also came out in Japan in the first week of November. I had waited so long to be able to see it so as soon as it came out I went to see it in the movie theatre with P. I've loved horror movies ever since I was a child so the movie didn't scare me. Pow, on the other hand, kept jumping out of his seat every few seconds. That was amusing.

    I also went to Universal Studios Japan (USJ) for the second time with the new exchange students plus one of their host sisters. We dressed up in the Harry Potter robes and scarves and agreed that we would all belong to different houses, mine being Slytherin.

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    Last but not least, I changed host families again, so I'm at my third family. It's an old couple and it's rather difficult to communicate for a few reasons.

December

 

    December had three major events.

For one, we had a Christmas party hosted by the ESS club. We did a present exchange and about thirty high school students from Taiwan came to visit our school. They did a presentation about their school and their culture in Japanese and then half of them danced for us. Most of them couldn't speak English but they could somewhat speak Japanese. It's a really satisfying feeling when you meet other foreigners who can't speak your main language and you can't theirs but still communicate due to both parties knowing a different language. It goes too show that if you can speak other languages you aren't only able to interact with people who live in the country that uses that language, you can interact with so many more people from all over the world. 

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     Secondly, the two exchange students were getting ready to leave and go back to Australia. During their time here, I had gotten close to the guy, so when it was time to say goodbye it was pretty hard. School had already ended and even though it was officially winter break people still had to go to school. The first day of winter break was the last day that we could see each other and he wanted to say goodbye to his Japanese friends so we met up at Hello Village and hung out for a while. He left to hang out with his classmates (they threw him a farewell party) and when he got back he had to leave already.

    I actually had plans to go back to California for winter break to see my family. The day of my flight was the same as the other exchange students who were going home. We were all flying out from Itami (in Osaka) to Narita (in Tokyo) to our final destinations. The guy and I had plans to meet up at one of the airports. Unfortunately we couldn't since we booked with different airlines and were on opposite sides of the airports. We still stay in touch though and now if I ever decided to travel to Australia I have a friend there to show me around. 

    Winter break was two weeks long and seeing as how I wasn't in Japan for the break, I'll spare details. Overall, it was nice to be back for a while. Eat the foods I was craving, play on my PLayStation again, sleep in my own bed, see friends, etc. Yet I also really wanted to return to Japan. My being home made me realize how fast time can go by and before knowing it my study abroad will have ended. There's still so many things I want to talk to my classmates about and I want to hang out with them a lot before having to say goodbye. Upon returning I didn't get homesickness. Visiting home for the holidays actually helps me to appreciate my time abroad even more. You only have a limited amount of time abroad that goes by quickly. Spending it feeling homesick is a waste. If you feel homesick, though, try to focus on things you don't miss form home and things that make your trip abroad worth it. For me, my classmates make it all the worthwhile. Just being able to joke around with them makes my day.

    My flight back was two days before break ended (U.S time). When I arrived to my home stay it was the night before school started again. It was a tiring trip but I was excited to see my classmates the next day. I had also brought them some Mexican candy to try out. Japanese people aren't good at handling spicy things so it was amusing seeing some of their reactions. 

That's it for this entry. I'll try to post more regularly from now on so all my posts aren't as long as this one.    

Getting Through The Low Parts

Getting through the low parts!

So far my experience in Spain has been great, but no matter where you are in life there will be ups and downs. I have had a great experience in Spain so far, but I would be lying if I said I’ve been happy every minute. So without further ado here are some tips to make it past the low moments.

 

  1. Reach out to friends. 

- I wouldn’t recommend talking to your parents or your other CIEE friends at the exact moment your sad. Because your CIEE friends are either happy and you might bring them down or they’re going through the same thing and won’t be able to help. And I wouldn’t recommend parents because ,as good as there intentions, seeing you sad will make them sad and over the phone they will probably struggle to give you the tough love you need. 

2. Laugh

- watch a good comedy or even some old vines. Any video that never fails to make you laugh is always the best medicine. 

3. Get out

- Sitting in your bed ,while it may seem appealing, is the worst thing to do. You can cry it out a little but after it’s important to even just walk around the block or take a nice shower, Sitting in your bed will make you feel stuck and like you can’t do anything to fix your current situation. 

4. Put things in perspective 

  • Remember that your experience here is limited, and while not easy, it’s important to make the best of it. Whether that means talking a little more, or breaking out of your shell a little bit, DO IT

Good luck, you got this!
-Siena 

Instagram: @sienanoel_

^I'd love to chat if anyone ever needs anything!

An Irish Christmas

Being on exchange means that you will have the chance to experience a different cultures way of celebrating holidays. Though you are away from the traditions that make this sacred time of year so special, those traditions will be there when you return. Spending Christmas with our host families gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity to truly grasp the culture of your host country. This can be one of the hardest times of the year for exchange students, but it is also one of the highlights of our year abroad. The Irish Christmas isn’t all that different from the American in the ways of how big it is, though the traditions and feel is still unique.

I remember being in Ennis in early December when the lights first decorated the town, and Christmas music played through the streets. That day as the sun set, I was transfixed by the magic of the season. Wondering through the streets with my friends we were excited to share what Christmas was like in our home countries and the plans are hosted families had.

 A must do for Christmas in Ireland is wandering through any Christmas market. So a bunch of my friends and I took a trip up to Galway, to do some shopping and to just experience this Irish tradition. Strolling through Galway the lights decorating the buildings and hanging over the streets as well as the atmosphere of the Christmas market, any wish to be at home for Christmas dispersed, and I was so excited to spend Christmas in this beautiful country with my host family.

Something I really enjoyed, was the school mass. I was really looking forward to the service and was not at all disappointed. The music classes had an arrange of songs that they sang which were all very lovely. It was also nice to have the whole school together something I have missed from my American school.

I always look forward to the Christmas Eve service at my church and though I was able to live stream it I also wanted to attend the Catholic mass in my host community. After I returned from the lovely service my host sister and I decided to watch a Christmas movie. So, I made her turn on Christmas vacation a true classic that she had never even seen. I fixed that problem, and I’m pretty sure it’s her new favorite Christmas movie.

Christmas day with my host family was very relaxed. After exchanging gifts that I had been dying to give them we spent the rest of the day playing various games. Of course, I also called home as my whole family had come for brunch and to open presents. I really enjoyed Christmas with my host family. They are actually not religious but they encouraged me to share anything I would be used to with them, such as praying at Christmas dinner. The Irish Christmas was truly magical and lived up to be much better than my expectations.   

If you want to see more from my time in Ireland I started to upload videos onto youtube!: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCt5ONMMZN1GMmPOTs3dSOoQ?view_as=subscriber 

Pictures:

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Happy New Years 

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Christmas with the host family!

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My local coordinator had us all over on New years eve

 

A trip to cork

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Friends you make on exchange are the best
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as you can see I am in love with Dexter, my friend Emilia' host dog 

Thank you for reading!

 

The Hard Times

    I haven’t posted in awhile. After the program excursion to Morocco, I fell into a rut. I had realized while away that while I wasn’t having a particularly bad time, I wasn’t having a particularly good time either. This was a disappointing realization, after all, who wouldn’t rather have an “eh” time in the comfort of their own home? It was hard. I was constantly asking myself the questions,“Why? Why am I here, and what’s the point of all this?” I was counting down the actual minutes of each class and I found that by the time I was done counting, I hardly wanted to return home. Like I said, it was disappointing and it was hard. For the longest time I didn't know what to do, but after giving it some time and effort, I am once again extremely excited to be studying abroad and I look forward to my next seven months in Spain. However, I still want to share with you what was happening and what I was feeling. To start off my story, you should know that my main challenges stemmed from school, independence, and thoughts of home. 

    My host school in Spain is extremely challenging, even to the standards of my Spanish speaking peers, and while this is something I can appreciate, it is also extremely dull. My Spanish school is strictly lecture and note-taking. We have finals type exams every two weeks, and school days are 7 hours with a twenty-minute break. I entirely understand that I am here to study abroad, but outside of school I was spending the vast majority of my free-time only doing school work. Schoolwork has never been a thing I enjoy, unfortunately, in order to remain even somewhat on track with my Spanish peers, this is what I had to do. It was also the expectation of all those around me, which leads me to my second struggle: independence. 

    When first deciding that I would study abroad, there was never a thought in my mind about what would happen to my independence. If anything, I'd have thought it would grow, but arriving here I found new limitations. My natural parents have always treated me as a capable individual, they have trusted me to make my own decisions, and manage my time. My previous school environments had only facilitated this, and as such, I often forget that much of the world will see me as only my age. Living with a new family and going to a new school, the expectations of how I should act and behave were very different. People expected me to act younger, to not be as independent, and not be as capable. These expectations were coming from my host family, school, and even my Spanish peers. My rules reflected these expectations and I was unable to branch out to do the things I wanted, the things I decided to study abroad for. I often felt treated like a young child. 

    And finally, there were the thoughts of home. While yes, I surely missed my family, and still do, it wasn’t homesickness that was bringing me down. It was the knowledge that with the way things were going, I knew I would be having a much better time at home. I knew I would be in an equally as challenging school, would have to spend less time on schoolwork, and would be getting much better grades. I knew that I would have the independence to do the things I wanted and to make my own decisions. These were the thoughts that were bringing me down, but even so, I knew I still wanted to be in Spain, I just needed something to change.

    Through talks with my family, my host family, and my host school, all of these aspects have improved greatly. I won’t deny that there are still areas I would like to make progress, nor will I say that these next seven months won't hold challenges of their own, but I am working towards my goals each day and I believe that this can be a truly wonderful year. I plan to start blogging much more as my personal writing is also something I would like to improve, so.... bear with me, look forward to more, and until next time, best wishes.

 

Trains of Thought from Firenze

    Florence is alive. I know that’s a cliche, but I’m not talking about the “hustle and bustle,” or the “life within.” I mean that the city itself is disturbingly human. Maybe that’s a borrowed sentiment from my recent tour of the Uffizi Museum, a goldmine of Renaissance art, which is loaded with interpretations of the human experience and history’s attempts to depict it. Nonetheless, as I look out over the buildings below (and curse at the wind for messing up my braids), I’m struck by the personability of everything I see.

    Ceramic tiles, all oddly color coordinated, spread out like skin, lined by hills and cypress trees (which I suppose constitute the hairline); the streets and alleyways are veins, filled with vessels that flow from place to place; the Arno river is one elongated limb, snaking under bridges and reaching towards the sea; each piazza is a hand, palm open to the sky, each sculpture a birthmark, each brick a follicle. The duomo to my left is, of course, the skull, made-up in geometric patterns with an eye on every face, watching as the city breathes and grows and falls apart, centuries at a time.

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(My view from the Cathedral)

    Then again, there’s still no signal, so maybe it’s not that incredible after all. I don’t know why I’m surprised—the Florence Cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore, isn’t exactly known for cell service—but I was still hoping I’d be able to get through. Whether my true intent was to share this moment with my parents or make my friends back home jealous, the world may never know. Maybe it’s for the best; for all the time I spent preaching independence and solidarity prior to my departure, I’ve rarely put it into practice. Still, I can’t help but hear the nagging voice in my head, saying that those closest to me should take a piece of this moment with them as well, should be able to see what I see, especially since I’m seeing so much.

    Two days have flown by, morphing into one blurry image of cloudy days and guided tours, barb-tipped breezes and oil paintings. Regrettably, I’ve not even finished the trip and I can already feel myself forgetting, well, everything. I know what I’ll remember: the pictures of Hitler in my hotel, the ‘Calumny of Apelles’ (my new favorite Botticelli), and one very awkward night out on the town with our group coordinator. But that’s probably it. How can one expect to absorb it all when there so much to absorb? It’s like trying to force blocks of gold through a pasta strainer. And the Italians say that Florence is small.

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('The Calumny of Apelles,' Sandro Botticelli)

    My exhaustion probably isn't aiding my memory. I haven’t really slept since I got off the train: now that I’m speaking English again, I might never shut up. And, of course, I’m excited to see my friends. At least, I think they’re my friends, the same people I met in Milan. Yet, there is something unmistakably different about each and every one of them. The shier girls are speaking up, the louder boys have learned to listen, the flirts are making normal friendships and the know-it-alls are asking questions. Only three months have passed, but the little changes noticeably add up…

    I can’t help but wonder is the same phenomenon is observable in me.

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(Our fantastic group for the Florence Trip)

 

Homesickness

Homesickness. It’s something you forget about when counting down the days until you’re on a plane bound for your new life. It’s the thing I was desperately persistent to not be, to not acknowledge in the slightest. But then it finds a way inside, most of the time late at night. When I just want to be in the woods of the mountain I grew up on. Where I long to feel the sun dancing on my skin, as the light intertwining through the leaves creates patterns that flow and change with the wind. I never thought I would be so utterly yearning for the mountains, for the forest filled with towering trees, or even for the scent of Signal Mountain Tennessee. There are times where I find myself with an excruciating ache to just hear the voice of any of the people I have strung up on my wall. I’ve been homesick, there I admit it. I don’t know why I pushed that feeling away for so long. Some say if you try to forget about it, then it will go away, but in all honesty, that is not the case. It was worse when I tried so desperately not to be, then when I finally allowed myself to cry.

There are times when I’m sitting in the midst of my Irish classmates who have known each other for years, and I start to wish for the familiar, for the classmates I left behind. Randomly in school, I find myself looking for certain faces, ones that I have known since six-grade, but there never there. When I think I see one of my American classmates, it’s never them. How could it be, I’m in another country remember? Of course, I chose this, to be the foreigner in a room full of citizens. I’m the one who has different views, the one with the accent, the one out of place and most of the time I like it, being different. But then there are days when I can’t stand it, having people acknowledge my accent on certain words or my use of ‘strange’ phrases, or having to constantly watch what I say or do.

It’s hard being somewhere, where the culture is so extraordinarily different, where the peoples’ backgrounds are too. I’m used to being comforted by the fact that my class knows me, and understands me and my personality. But it’s almost the complete opposite here. From a private southern all-girls prep school, where we all come from relatively the same financial background, and where I’m always certain someone will share my same views, it is hard for me that it is not the case here. What’s normal to me is in no way normal to them, things that you can and are almost expected to discuss where I come from is not here. Part of my personality is constantly aware of the goals I have for my future, and the benefits that come with it. At home, it’s expected to talk about our futures, after all, we have the concept of the ‘American dream’. Though Irish people are a lot more reserved in that aspect, apart from teachers asking what we want to study or what we might want to do not many people even hint of what their future holds, it’s not something really talked about.  

I think some of the Irish kids don’t understand the completely different cultures and background we come from. I know we share the same language and don’t have the same troubles as other exchange students coming to learn English, but for us Americans we face different challenges that feel harder in some ways. Unlike our foreign friends we don’t always get a second chance when we say the wrong thing. It’s a challenge I never thought about, how what I say could be taken the wrong way or come across not how I intended it too.

Coming to a place where they think they know you from what they see on TV is difficult. I feel as though they expect me to be this ‘American girl’ who will automatically live up to their image of us across the sea. In some ways I am, I fit into some of the models of the million American stereotypes out there.

Sometimes, well probably most of the time I like to go along with the red white and blue picture I am portrayed as. It’s fun most of the time, but then there are times where I have just had enough, days where I can’t keep up with the slags or the idea of who I am supposed to be as the American. I never thought it would be this different, more than just culture, I never imagined what it would be like to interact with people who are not only different from your nationality but financially too. I think this is one of the more difficult things I have been faced with. I hate talking about money with the people of my host community, but it is a question that comes up. Living in a small Irish town means that most of the residents cannot afford all the luxuries in life or even small things you could be used to. I’m sometimes afraid that I come across as a spoiled brat to people if they ask me about my school at home or things I don’t catch myself from saying. I’ve actually talked to one of my teachers about this and she reassured me that if someone asked me a question and didn’t like the answer that it was their own problem, and I shouldn’t worry about that sort of thing.

As an exchange student, I wanted more for myself, I wanted to learn about new cultures and be faced with obstacles that keep on growing. Though they seem difficult at sometimes, these challenges, that I am getting through, are what make this experience so special. I am so glad I found a way to be where I am today, sitting in my Irish room writing this blog. Never in a million years would I take back the decision to study abroad in high school. I would never wish to not face the struggles that come with culture shock. These things I never imagined I would even be faced with are what continue to build me as a person, helping me discover who I am and strengthen who I am going to become.

Now I know this isn’t a super happy blog but I wanted to show another part of this experience that can sometimes be forgotten about. Right now, I’m living the best year of my life so far. Though for a couple weeks in November I started to feel the effects of homesickness I have gotten over most of it. I’m sorry I didn’t get to talk about any exiting events but I thought this would be an important post. 

Now for pictures!

An Irish rainbow

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Bike riding in Killarny national park on our independent travel over midterm 
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For Thanksgiving we(my host family) went out to eat for dinner Fix red eye

Some of my American friends came to Galway, it was great meeting up with them again
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Also in Galway city, but with one of my EIL friends 
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the whole group I went on an independent travel with, this was our first day in Kerry
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more of Killarney and the ring of Kerry
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this past weekend in Cork 
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Thank you for readin another one of my Irish Blogs 

 

Expect The Unexpected

Expect the Unexpected

 

Welcome to abroad! The food, the language, the culture, school, music, and just about everything else is different! Right now you are probably expecting everything to be different, but truth be told there are some random things that I Neve would have thought about before that i find helpful now.

 

Sports

In my personal experience i’ve found (especially for girls) that it’s less common for people to play sports here. In the United States almost everyone plays sports for a club or my school. Here they don’t have school sports and since not everyone is able to go to a club, there’s a large group of people who don’t play sports. If you’re like me and love to be active, just consider looking into different options before you arrive at your host family or ask your host family down after your arrival if they have any suggestions. 

 

Food

The food is obviously different, and although fresh it is A LOT of carbs and meat and not a lot vegetables. Now I love carbs a lot but especially with the change in climate, diet, added stress, (and in my case huge change of altitude) it can take a huge toll on your skin and overall health. But if you expect it you can either counter act it or tell your host family a type of food you would love them to make (or offer to make it for them!)

 

After School

I was talking to a program friend recently about how important it is to use all of your time here. That doesn’t mean you have to make a cultural excursion to a museum everyday, but even going for a walk around your pueblo is better than staying at home. It’s hard to get in a good healthy mindset sitting in your room after school thinking about stress, missing home, procrastinating homework, or counting down the days until you leave. 

 

Host Parents

I’m not sure how well you get along with your parents at home, but at least in my situation I spend a lot of time with my parents and have always enjoyed a good family dinner. Here it’s equally as important to spend time with your host parents. They volunteered to host you and they want to help. So as crazy or different as they may seem, the more you embrace your differences and make an effort to converse with them the more your Spanish and experience abroad will improve.