España: From the view of a principiante

I am the kind of person that needs busyness, organization, and preparation to succeed. I am the kind of person who holds down some sort of job, runs for her university, takes 16-18 credits a semester, gets all A’s, volunteers, runs a Bible study, and still has time for girls nights. I am the kind of person that writes her papers three weeks in advance, finishes her homework before it is assigned, and knows all the content of that day’s lecture before sitting down in class. I am the kind of person with all the answers, all the time, who is always early, and sleeps her recommended 8-10 hours a night. At least, I was.

Now, I am the kind of person who takes a siesta in the middle of day, runs at night time, watches movies, takes walks, snaps a million pictures, stays up late, wakes up early, is exhausted, jokes around in class, finishes her homework the day before it’s due like most people, shows up five minutes late, and laughs every step of the way. I am the kind of person who doesn’t have all the answers, doesn’t know everything, and for once in her life, is completely out of her comfort zone. And it is the most nerve-wracking, harebrained, difficult, insane, and vibrant experience I have ever been through. It is the best thing that could have happened to a perfectionist freak like me.

Spain is the one semester of my life during which I have actually been able to relax. There is so much to do, but I have time to do it all.  I am done with my school related responsibilities by 12:30. I don’t have to cook, clean, do my laundry, go to practice, conduct a meeting, or hang out with friends that I have long neglected. Instead, I actually enjoy getting to be young and in college. Here, I don’t feel the pressure of 9,000 people on my back, pulling me every direction and expecting it all to work.

And I love it. I love getting to be unorganized. Walk down a street because it looks pretty. Enjoy the sunrise because I can actually see it. Go to a café and order a coffee, sit down, and drink it without having to do a paper or anything. I get to relax, and still learn more than I ever have in all my years of stress ridden, tear inducing, and insane educational walk.

I boarded the plane to Sevilla a few weeks ago with just my AP Spanish course, covered in three years of cobwebs, a Spanish dictionary, and faith that I would somehow be fluent upon arrival in Sevilla. I’m not fluent, my AP Spanish course has long vacated my brain, and I refuse to spend my entire semester with my nose stuck in a dictionary trying to translate everything from a book like many other Americans in this country. As such, I have made a lot of mistakes.

The biggest would be saying “Sí” to every question asked of me at a coffee shop, by my host mom, or by vendors on the street. This led to me be forced to try a White Mocha from Starbucks, to be locked out of my house my first day, to confuse the heck out of every salesperson that has tried to help me, to never get my coffee in a convenient to-go cup, and to get lost every time I try to go home.

However, after three weeks of living, eating, drinking, talking, and enjoying everything about Sevilla, I can finally see what people were talking about when they said “Spanish comes to you easily when you live there.” I can now do everything from ordering coffee to asking for directions to having a conversation.

I still make mistakes here every day. But with those mistakes, I am learning a new route home, a new word, or a new social rule. There was a period in which I thought I would never learn Spanish, or that I would ever make it through an entire semester. I kept messing everything up. I couldn’t order my coffee or buy a skirt without help from someone who was fluent in Spanish. I couldn’t tell my host mom who I was outside the house, because I didn’t know how to identify myself. I couldn’t get directions home when I was lost because I didn’t know how to ask.

But instead of letting the fear of being wrong, looking rather unintelligent, or the knowledge that I speak absolutely no Spanish hold me back from learning, engaging, and making a difference, I have willingly made the decision to make mistakes. Mistakes aren’t something the old me was used to, but they are something the new me loves. Mistakes mean that I am alive, that I am willing to change, be imperfect, and do something daring and adventurous.

Slowly, but surely, Spain is teaching me a thing or two about life, about relaxing, about enjoying the beauty set before me, and hey, even a little about Spanish too.

I wonder, what could Spain teach you?


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