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3 Unforgettable Weeks in Spain

By Hailey Seaman, 2017 homestay immersion participant to Spain
Going to Spain from June 24 to July 17 was the scariest, craziest, most incredible thing I've ever done. Prior to this trip, I had never been outside of the country, and even though going on exchange was going to be really out of my comfort zone, I was so excited. 
I was exhausted the first day to say the least. The night before, I couldn't sleep. I got MAYBE three hours of sleep because I was so nervous. On the first flight, I slept for about an hour, and the second not at all. So in the span of three days, I was running on about four hours of sleep! I was on such an adrenaline rush though, it was fineI was just very mentally drained and nervous. 
I had texted my host sister and my host mom about two weeks before we left, so I had kind of a sense of what they were like, which was very nice. If you're planning on going on exchange, I highly recommend reaching out to your host family before you get there! It definitely makes the transition into their family smoother. It’s also very important to remember that they want you there as much as you want to be there! 
My three host sisters and my host dad picked me up from the airport while my host mom was at work. For the first few days I was extremely confused and completely overwhelmed. But you get used to it, and you can't let it get you down. I was constantly meeting new people, giving so many kisses on cheeks, trying new foods, and discovering things about Spain’s culture. By the end of my trip, I had fallen in love with Spain and never wanted to leave.
When I’m asked about my favorite thing from Spain, I can never give a straight answer because it was all the best I could’ve imagined. The people were so welcoming and kind. The friends I met and my host family 100% shaped my entire experience. I was included just like I’d always been there. Like I was a part of the friend groups and the family. It’s quite the feeling. I am so lucky to have had the host family I did. I will never be able to thank them enough. My host sisters (Irene- 17, Cristina- 14, and Marina- 10) and I each got along very well and formed great relationships. They took me everywhere and taught me more than I ever thought I’d learn. 
The food was also superb: tortilla española and jamón iberico were my favorites. I promised myself to try all the food I could, and I did. I’d also highly recommend palmerascafé con leche, and bizcocho. The Italian food in Spain is pretty great too. I will never be able to shake how stunning Spain is, either. My host family took me to several cities including Madrid, Segovia, Arenas de San Pedro, and to lots of other unfathomably beautiful places, museums, palaces, landmarks, and much more. Just the beauty and the history of the streets blew my mind. Madrid will always have a place in my heart. 
I also made two Oregonian friends, Porter and Iris, through the ANDEO program, and I am so grateful for them. We were assigned as roommates at our orientation for our Spain trip, and we became friends so fast. They helped me through the hard times of this trip and celebrated the best times with me. It was wonderful to have two friends going through the same crazy, life-changing experience with you at the same time. They’re amazing people that I wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for this trip. Again, I’m so lucky.
As far as advice goes, I have a few tips:
  • First, you might not have the language down very well, but have confidence. You know more than you think, and it's amazing how much you learn while on exchange, even if just for three weeks. When you start thinking in half of the language you’re learning and half English, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. 
  • Take in every sight, and take SO many pictures! I still can't get over how beautiful absolutely everything was in Spain. Like nothing I've ever seen before, it was magical. 
  • Speak. A lot. That’s the only way to get better, and you’re completely expected to mess up. Do it.
  • Keep a journal and write down everything. I mean everythingfrom the best things to the worst things, new words you learn, your thoughts, your plans, the new foods you try, and even songs that will remind you of your trip. 
  • My biggest piece of advice would be to take every opportunity you are offered. This is truly what made my time so wonderful. I learned to say yes even when I didn't feel like it. Sometimes that led to the best memories with new friendships, new places, and experiences. 
If you ever get the chance to go on exchange, take it. It is more than worth it.

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