Four weeks isn't much, but it's definitely changed my point of view - and I'm betting the students have been affected as well.
|Some of my summer students at the farewell dinner doing what they do best - being adorable.|
Anyone who knows me also knows of my love for Spain, in particular Madrid. Some might call it an annoying obsession, and by that I mean most of my college friends have the instinctive urge to scream as soon as they hear mention of anything to do with Spain because for four years I didn't stop talking about it.
I mean, look, I'm still talking about it now.
Most know that my passion began just over six years ago when I set off for a five week summer study abroad program with about sixty students I didn't know, a freshman level of Spanish and a first timer abroad excitement that couldn't be matched. Five weeks, much like this same program I taught in, that many students spent with their American counterparts giving Americans the rep they've earned in most European countries, criticizing the Spaniards for their lack of English, their staring, their horrible service in restaurants, etc. etc.
No judgement or anything, but it wasn't really my style - nor that of the handful of close, life long friends I made on that trip.
|One of my best friends and I - we can't seem to stop having laughter filled adventures, even now :)|
After five weeks in Spain, I discovered my ultimate passion - travel and language. I found myself constantly working towards the same attitude I had during that time, the ability to let the bad just roll off my shoulders- whether it was losing all my luggage or leaving important tickets six hours away on my desk in Madrid. I understood what it meant to find friendships that were mutual, deep and true. Not only did I meet some American girls who have been and will be important in my life forever, but we found Spanish friends that have had a huge impact on us as well - one of us even married a Spaniard!
|A day of packing and tears. Hasta siempre.|
"This is a toast to the plans that fall through, to embracing the unexpected, to learning there are a million possibilities out there, and to one day, week, or month changing your life. This is a toast to living each moment as your last and to truly good friends you are lucky to have in a foreign country. Here is to Spain."
No time or event or one person has affected me as much as those five weeks, those experiences and those people.
But something I never thought about before, was the people who made it possible. Sure, I thanked my teachers and the staff at that time, giving them hugs and sharing tears, but it never really hit me until now what an impact they had on the success of that program and its affect on me. My teachers there became my friends. They didn't care if I was late, hungover or missed class, except for some minor teasing and a slap on the wrist. We kept them up at all hours of the night and they laughed with us the next morning. My teachers and the staff introduced us to our Spanish friends, took us on tours and gave us starting points for exploring, kept us safe while also telling us which bars would be fun or taking us salsa dancing. Heck, I'm pretty sure one of the guides rigged a photography competition so that I would win the second place prize (not the first), a dinner at a restaurant I had been dieing to go to but couldn't afford.
|The winning photo. Notice the man in the wheelchair, the element that helped me win with this chance shot.|
|It's a hard job, but someone's gotta do it. I'll miss these guys, but I'm looking forward to meeting my next group!|