"The greatest explorer on this earth never takes voyages as long as those of the man who descends to the depth of his heart." Julien Green
The last month has been pretty hectic. From the CIEE group trip to Portugal, to my trip up north to the beach with some friends, my parents coming to visit and Semana Santa(holy week), it’s been hard to make time to type out a blog but here are a few pictures to catch up!
Palacio de Pena
the group outside Palacio de Pena, in Portugal
la playa (the beach!)
friends in Alicante
the parents in Sevilla!
one of the processions during Semana Santa
Figuring out a way to conclude this blog has been really hard for me to do. At this point I have about 2 and a half full days left here in Sevilla before my gap year program with CIEE comes to a close. After this incredible year of exploration and growth it’s hard to find the words to sum up how I feel about it ending in just one blog post so I’ve decided to break it down into two questions. One, what my expectations were at the beginning of the year and two, how they were fulfilled throughout the year.
What did I want to get out of my gap year?
My goals in taking a gap year were pretty straightforward: to become fluent in Spanish, participate in community service or volunteering, immerse myself in a completely new culture and to grow and learn more about myself as a person. The thought of college was overwhelming but it wasn’t the fact that I didn’t think I was ready. It was more that I felt that if I took this year to learn and grow more as a person it would hopefully have a positive impact on my success at college in the future.
What did I actually get out of my gap year?
At the beginning of this year it was incredibly difficult for me to understand what my host family was talking about at the dinner table and even more difficult to jump in and express my feelings in general. I was a beginner. Now after almost 9 months of intense language classes I am more than happy with how much my Spanish has improved. I am no longer feel awkward or scared or lost conversing with citizens on the street, asking directions or sometimes even offering them. Conversations with my host family at the dinner table seem easy, and I feel comfortable jumping in and adding my two cents into the conversation.
Everyday I enjoy learning a new word or phrase and with my friends it has become almost second nature to talk in Spanglish. And yes, I’ve even had some dreams in Spanish, which of course is always awesome! My Spanish is not perfect and of course there will always be room for improvement but I am truly, truly, going to miss hearing the Spanish language throughout my house or in the streets everyday. Since language learning was a big part of why I took a gap year, I am so excited to go back to the States and see where this newfound love will take me!
Each place that I volunteered at was such a different experience yet I take away one important lesson from them all. I’ve learned the value of giving back and helping others. Making time to think of others is so important, there is such an amazing sense of accomplishment after teaching a little boy a new English word or helping a little girl get up on a surfboard and ride the wave. I’ve experienced this year, these small gestures always have a way of coming back to you and bringing happiness into your life in different ways. Keep on volunteering!
Host family. I really couldn’t imagine another option when I thought about my gap year. I knew I wanted immersion and I knew living with a host family would do just that, but to be honest it was so much more than what I expected. Each and every person in my two families has played such a special role in my experience and without them it just would not have been the same. My Spanish never just stopped once my classes ended I had to constantly work to communicate with my host family, coordinating schedules or talking about daily news.
Every day I would try different authentic dishes. Every day I adjusted my schedule to be on Chilean or Spanish time to coincide with my host family. Every day I took part in daily activities around the city, going to the gym, yoga classes, park or beach days, trips to the grocery store to buy shampoo, really whatever! Although frustrating and hard at times, all these experiences contributed to reaching my goal, which was immersion into a culture completely different from my own. And although Spain and Chile are very different, they are both beautiful places that share the communality of having caring, helpful, cheerful, good-humored, intelligent people. Leaving me with a beyond wonderful impression of the two countries.
This last point is the hardest one to explain for me. Each time I would tell someone I was taking a gap year I would receive pretty much the same response, something like, “Wow, a gap year, that’s so amazing! This year is just going to be so great for you, you’re going to grow and learn so much about yourself!”
Although I really did believe and even agree with each of these people, I didn’t exactly know what growing and learning about myself was going to entail.
Now sitting here and reflecting over my year, I know exactly what they meant. No, of course, I haven’t figured everything out. Heck, I’m still not 100% sure what I want to study in college next year. But what I can say is as far as the person I am. I am so happy right here, right now. Each and every awkward, exciting, stressful, uncomfortable, new, and fun situation that I’ve experienced this year has taught me something new about myself and I can’t wait to apply it once I return back to the states. This all, of course, sounds immensely cheesy but all I can really say is if you don’t really understand what I’m saying maybe you just need to take a gap year to figure it out!
I LOVE MY LIFE!!
A huuge thank you to the people who made this year possible. I love you all to the moon and back and truly cannot thank you enough!