Jumping Into Valladolid

I have always wanted to get out and see more of the world than just the lovely corner of Western New York that I call home.  I love the United States but I have had this curiosity for what is beyond what I have known my whole life and who else is out there in the world.  I guess you could say I have been craving adventure and oh boy did I find a good one!  I have been in Valladolid, Spain for almost four weeks now.  It has been incredible to meet new people, see another country, and learn more about myself.  In this blog post, I am going to tell you a little bit about my journey so far and the new things I have tried as well as some of the struggles.

First, traveling alone out of the country was a daunting task in the beginning and I wasn’t sure if I was up for it.  I have been out of the country before, but with a group of people so it wasn’t as scary.  This time I had a lot of concerns.  I had thoughts and worries racing through my mind during my travels, but each time I checked one of my concerns off, I got a little more confident.  Long story short, I made all of my flights and trains (some just barely) and made it safely to my wonderful host family’s home.

My wonderful host family

My fun-loving host sisters, Jimena and Candella

My host family is fantastic.  I have two little host sisters (ages 9 and 12) and two, loving host parents.  They have made my transition from America to Spain so much easier than I thought it would be.  Even though they don’t speak a lot of English, and I have come to realize just how different speaking Spanish is with classmates than speaking it with true Native speakers, we have been able to communicate fairly easily.  It is fun to sit down with them and have conversations about the differences and similarities between our countries.  We talk about the TV shows and movies from America they have seen and love such as Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon, Grown Ups. The girls also love Disney Channel and Nickelodeon shows.  A lot of television shows in Spain are from America with voice-overs, making it intriguing for me to learn more Spanish as I watch shows that I have seen before in English.  Music is also something that brought us closer together.  My host sisters LOVE music and singing so we are constantly jamming to the biggest American and Spanish music hits.

Most of my experiences at the beginning of my trip, I didn’t know I had agreed to, because when I didn’t understand something I just smiled and said “sí.”  I usually did not know where we were going until we got there.  I simply “jumped in” the car with my host family and we were on our way.  Now, of course, my Spanish has gotten better and I understand a lot more (plus I am not scared to ask questions anymore) so I usually know what is going on!  My host family has made it possible for me to travel to new places and explore different parts of Spain.  I have seen some very amazing places so far such

Jumping with joy in Segovia

as Simancas, Segovia, and a lot of Valladolid.  The history in this country is incredible and while my host parents explain a lot of it to me, I find it difficult to understand much of what they’re saying.  I know I am missing out on incredible information but I do my best to pick out the words I know.

The 15th century castle in Simancas


One of my favorite places was an old village called Simancas that had a 15th-century castle.  It was beautiful and the village surrounding it was cute and historic.  Another adventure was to watch a rugby match.  We have gone to two so far.  The first one, we sat only a couple rows up from the field, right behind the players, because my host dad used to play on the team and now the company he works for sponsors them!  The second game was the championship between two teams of Valladolid.  It was held in the big soccer stadium and there were a ton of fans there to see the game.  The rules were complicated but at the end of the second game, I started to understand them.  After the game, both teams’ fans came together in the parking lot and danced in celebration. The players even came out and visited with their fans.  It was really neat to be a part of a sporting event where both sides were courteous to each other and just wanted to celebrate the game of rugby.  I found a new sport that I love!

One of the rugby players that my host dad coached when he was a kid!

Aside from all of my traveling adventures, I have been at United Cultures Language School and loving it!  I work with kids, teenagers, and adults.  It is a fantastic way to learn more about Spanish culture and share my knowledge about America and American English.  I enjoy working with the adults because they love having someone new to practice their English with and hear how to pronounce different words.  They are so much fun!  This time of year is also exciting because there is a group of students going to the USA this summer. The other interns and I have been helping by sharing some of the things they may experience and preparing them for an exciting summer of new adventures!  This next week I will be teaching a lesson that I created and I can’t wait!

This experience has been incredible for me.  I have amazed myself at my ability to step out of my comfort zone and try new things.  Sometimes it takes a little push but I have grown so much in these four short weeks and look forward to how I will grow and learn in these next three.  Thanks for reading about my journey here in Valladolid and I will be posting again soon!

“When we enlarge our view of the world we deepen our understanding of our own lives.” — Yo-Yo Ma

Plaza Mayor at night!



About the author

Emily Swanson

Hello, my name is Emily Swanson! I have spent my whole life in Jamestown, NY on my family’s horse farm, except for the time I spend at Houghton College where I will be a senior in the fall and of course two months that I have spent living with another family in Valladolid, Spain. I am majoring in Inclusive Childhood Education with a concentration in Intercultural Studies. At Houghton, I am a part of the women’s basketball team, who I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua with last summer. This summer I adventured alone to Valladolid where I taught English at a language emersion school, United Cultures Language School. I am so grateful for this opportunity JCC has provided me with and hope you enjoy reading about my journey!