The surrounding town or, “Pueblo”, of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a beautiful area with narrow streets, old buildings, and a piece of history everywhere you go. Going through the small Pueblo felt like I was a couple hundred years back in history and it was a completely different world. The Monastery itself was something that I had never seen before. It was a real Castle from a fairytale and the only thing it was lacking was a Dragon. Not once throughout the entire trip did I ever get used to the amazing sight. There were different parts of the Monastery that were open. One part was the church, another was where tourist visited, another was for the school where I stayed, and the last was a part not open to the public. During my stay we visited all parts of the parts of the Monastery and went on many different tours.
My days at the camp were long and full of fun activities. For the mornings they offered three different language classes; English, Spanish, and French. The first hour and a half of Spanish class we worked on basic vocabulary and punctuation. Although it was difficult at first, learning how to pronounce different words got easier with time. During the first two weeks the second hour and a half was spent preparing for my groups part in a performance. We each had a role and lines in Spanish to memorize. Learning my lines proved to be a very hard task but with help and persistence I got them down just in time. During the last week, after the performance, we spent the second portion of class playing games like Hangman and Hot or Cold; in Spanish of course. After class we had free time where would get our phones for one hour. Surprisingly, I did not have a difficult time parting with my phone. I enjoyed taking a break from social media to enjoy the people around me. It was a little weird at first to not always have it on me, but I was always kept busy so I didn’t miss it too much.
In the afternoons, we would alternate between magic classes and fencing. I love magic so getting to learn different tricks was really fun for me. The fencing was different because I had never done it before. Also, it is not very popular here in America so it was very new to me. My favorite part of the day was going down to the pool to swim. We went swimming every day, except field trip days, and swam for three hours. It was a great way to escape the humid mountain heat and have lots of fun too. Then, after dinner, we would either play night games or watch a movie in their home theater. Since the sun doesn’t go down until ten o’clock at night, we stayed up very late every night. Our days were very long and filled with lots of fun things so at the end of the day I was exhausted.
At least once every week we went on field trips to places like the Water Park, Amusement Park, Zoo, Madrid, and a nearby Ice Cream shop. I had tons of fun at each of these places but I especially loved being able to see other Spanish people and watch how they interact. Spanish people are very sweet and non-judgmental towards each other. They don’t care much about appearances or class just about how a person treats others. I realized how much I care about what other people think of me and it was refreshing to not worry about impressing anyone. They also hand out compliments all the time! Everyone was so uplifting to each other and receiving compliments raised my self esteem. It also felt good to give them as well. It was enlightening to see how you can make someone’s day with just a few kind words.
Although I knew things were going to be very different from what I’m used to, I had no idea I would be stepping into another world completely. The smallest things that I didn’t think would be different were. The water tasted different, the toilet paper rolls were smaller, many people do not use their blinkers while driving, which is really scary, and even how they answer their phones was different. Instead of answering and saying, “Hello”, they said, “Dime”, which translates to “Tell me.” They also eat more seafood than I thought. I was expecting their food to be similar to Mexican food, but as I quickly learned, they are two different cultures that have little in common. Getting used to the little differences took time but after the first week I felt like I was getting the hang of the Spanish lifestyle. It was nice having Caleb and Taylor there with me as well because sometimes it got a little overwhelming. I loved learning and speaking Spanish with the other students, but at times I needed some English speakers that fully understood what I was saying. Being able to share this experience with them was amazing and I made some new friends here too.
While in Spain, I pushed myself to step outside of my comfort zone and to experience everything I could. From trying strange foods, to going on roller coasters, to singing in front of almost a hundred people on multiple occasions, I have learned how amazing the outside of my comfort zone can be. The world is a big place full of different adventures and I am determined to experience as much of them as I can. I want to learn more about the different cultures around me and learn all that I can from people everywhere. This trip has inspired me to take advantage of the opportunities I have to learn about my own culture and to pay more attention to the little things in my daily life. I will never forget the new memories, lessons, and friendships I made while there. I appreciate this opportunity more than words can describe and I want to thank everyone who made this possible.
No sólo yo ya no temo lo desconocido, pero quiero explorarlo.
(Not only do I no longer fear the unknown, but I want to explore it.)