No matter where you are going or what you are doing, you have an idea or expectation of what it will be like. It can be easy to set high expectations and be a little disappointed if they aren't fulfilled, but if you put yourself in the right mindset, your idea of what something will be like won't matter. I went into my exchange to San Sebastián making sure not to hold on to high expectations, or any expectations at all, but before I did create assumptions of what my exchange, the food, culture, and people would be like with the little information I had. I cannot believe how different this trip turned out. The reality surpassed my expectation, but the best part was what I got out of this trip was so unexpected.
My thought was that I would come away from this trip knowing more Spanish and feeling more confident with my Spanish abilities, along with having a bond with a new family overseas. Being alone in another country definitely did more than improve my Spanish. I gained a confidence you can only get from navigating delayed flights, layovers, and having to travel independently in a foreign country, all in a different language.
What really made this an unforgettable trip was the friendships I made, and what I was able to do with the independence I was given. Every weekday I would bus to school and go to three hours of language classes. There were kids from all around the world who came to San Sebastián to improve their Spanish at the school La Cunza. We were all in the same situation, which was why it was so easy to make friends. In the first day of school I had become friends with eight girls from the UK, Turkey and the US. We spent almost everyday together, and in two weeks I created friendships that we all hope to keep for a long time. After school, when we didn’t travel outside the city with our program, our group of friends spent the afternoon laying on the beach, eating many many pintxos and gelato, and exploring the city, which I was proud to say I knew my way around by the end of my trip. We would meet up after eating dinner with our families, go to the beach and watch the sunset over the ocean. This was the most unexpected part of my trip. I never anticipated to create such strong friendships and connections as well as to have so much in common with such amazing people.
My host family was a relationship I knew I would create before coming, but was very nervous about what the result would be. I ended up loving them. They were all so kind and generous to me. My host dad taught me to surf, my host sister took me to see Buscando Dory, my host mom showed me all over the city, and we all would spend days at the beach together. With my family is where I felt my Spanish abilities rise because they all made sure to include me in every conversation. I was no stranger in their house. They acted like I was family. I thought my host family would either make or break my trip, and it definitely had a big effect, but I came to realize not one factor of the trip played a larger part than another, and a majority of my experiences were dependent on my attitude and mindset. If I was positive and ready for anything, it all ended up being incredible.
Transitioning to my daily life was easier than I expected, though it was different. My whole flight home I felt like I never wanted to leave, but as I stepped into the PDX airport all I could think about was seeing my family, friends, and of course my dogs. My experiences, relationships and confidence coming back home have made me excited and inspired to not make that my last foreign exchange, and I am already thinking about what will be next.