Wow, has it truly been half a month since I pulled away from Valladolid at 5 a.m. in the morning on a giant coach bus with tears in my eyes? It seems like a lifetime ago, and at the same time, it feels like it was just yesterday that I was parting with my host family.
Saying goodbye to my host family was probably one of the hardest goodbyes I’ve ever experienced because I honestly have no idea if I will ever see these wonderful people again. And yet, the challenge of this goodbye serves as proof that my connection with these people and their culture was genuine and oh so sweet.
It is funny now to think about how the idea of living in another family’s home was probably one of the biggest factors that caused me anxiety on those long nights leading up to my trip, and especially during my plane ride across the Atlantic Ocean. I would ask myself, “What if they don’t like me?…What if I can’t communicate with them and just have to sit in silence for the next 90+ meals that I eat in their home!?” Yeah…sometimes my inner voice can be a bit dramatic. However, now I am pleased to attest to the fact that all of my worries were for nothing. My host family exceeded my expectations in every way! I now have two new amazing and spunky sisters as well as host parents who I miss like crazy! They showed me so much love and kindness during my stay in their home, and they shared with me their passion for the city of Valladolid and the history that resides there in the old cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture. It also helps that my host mother was a teacher, so she truly enjoyed sharing facts about the culture, language, and history of Spain. Additionally, my family shared with me their love for adventure through experiences such as road trips to the coast, long hikes, tours of old castles, and even an underground wine cellar-turned-restaurant, just to name a few.
Living with two host parents who spoke very little English also really stretched me and challenged me to pick up a language at a much quicker rate than I ever believed was possible! If I wanted to keep up with mealtime discussion I had to focus and listen carefully in order to comprehend the conversation, and if I was able to participate and contribute my own thoughts it felt like the greatest victory! Or, if I understood a joke that was made in the TV show we were watching, I felt proud knowing that I was truly able to laugh rather than merely adding in a fake chuckle to pretend I had any clue what was going on (this is speaking from personal experience, as it took me about two solid weeks to actually get to this point of listening comprehension). I loved being a part of this family and will cherish the many memories we made together.
Furthermore, Spain and the city of Valladolid will always hold a special place in my heart; I am already scheming and plotting for a way to return in the future! I loved being able to walk everywhere and appreciated being able to sit on the beach in my swimsuit while also being located in the heart of the city. This was thanks to the river that divides Valladolid in two and the quiet little beach that is nestled in there. I loved little quirks such as these that gave the city so much character.
I also think it would be so fun to return to the United Cultures Language School where I interned. I would love to catch up with my awesome co-workers and see all the progress that my former students have made. I really enjoyed getting to lead classes and play games with these students. It was such a joy getting to see their excitement for games, not even realizing that they were developing their English skills and learning in the process!
Just reminiscing about all of this makes my heart ache, as I long to return to such a wonderful country and embark on a few more adventures that I just did not have time for during my one month stay. Nevertheless, I am so thankful that I can now call Valladolid my home away from home and I owe many thanks to JCC for making this wonderful experience a reality.