Before going to Spain, I had never been out of the United States—more specifically, I had never been East of Utah. Consequently, I was quite nervous to travel far away and live in a place where I don’t even speak the language, but I am muchisimo grateful that I did. I loved so much about Spain, but probably my favorite part was the people I met there. I absolutely loved my host family and I was lucky enough to make good friends there.
Living with a host family, I believe, is the only way to travel and fully experience a country. I learned so much from my host mom about how Spaniards eat, live, and think. In the morning I would eat an orange, tostadas (toasted slices of a baguette), and the best hot chocolate I have ever had. Whether it is a sweeter chocolate mix or the kind of milk they use in Spain, Spanish hot chocolate is a lot better than what we have stateside.
Lunch is the biggest and best meal in Spain. Almost all stores close down from 2 PM to 4 PM so that everyone can go home and eat lunch with their families. It was then that I was able to sit and talk with my host mom and my host sister who lived on the floor above me. She cooked a lot of interesting meals. The most typical of Asturias (the region in Spain where I lived) was called Fabada. It is a thick soup/stew made of beans and a piece of blood sausage. It was pretty good, but my favorite was pastel with rice. The pastel is made of tomatoes, mayonnaise, tuna, and eggs. After lunch is the postre, for this we would usually eat a piece of fruit or yogurt. On special occasions, like the day after my host cousin got married, we would eat really rich cakes. There were some types made of thick chocolate, some more jelly based, and some that tasted almost like pecan pie.
After lunch, I would usually go out and hang out with my friends or walk around town until dinner time. If I was hungry I would sometimes have chocolate con churros. The chocolate is thicker than regular hot chocolate, but a little thinner than fondue and tastes magical. Dinner was usually something small like rice and eggs with tomato sauce, but it was nice to get together with my host mom one more time for the night.
It was great to have my host mom around because I was able to see a different side of Spain with her. Spain is viewed really differently by the older and younger generations. With my host mom, I was able to learn about her concerns and expectations for the future of Spain. It was excellent to get to know someone with so much experience and passion for Spain.
I strongly believe that making friends in Spain and being forced to speak Spanish all day with them is the only way to learn the language. I was able to practice the Spanish I learned in class with them and learn new words that only come up in day to day conversation. I was also able to learn and do fun things that tourists don’t really get to do or see when I was with them.
I met my friends while I went to my church and to church sponsored events, having this commonality really helped to bring us together and give us things to talk about. We really became good friends when we hiked up Naranco Mountain and say the Christ statue. It is a beautiful short hike and we were able to really get to talk and joke around on it.
Probably one of my favorite experiences with my friends was when we went bowling—yes, there is bowling is Spain. I went with my friends Panky, Katy, and Welington. We were given just one lane and it was busy, so there were a group of around ten –year-olds. All the balls looked about the same but for some reason Panky knew that they were using our balls and not theirs. So, after a couple times of nicely asking them to not use our balls anymore, one boy had a ball in hand about to throw it down the lane. Well it happened to be Panky’s ball and so right before the kid could throw the ball she grabbed it from him and yelled at him for trying to use her ball. It was probably the most hilarious thing I have ever seen.
I have tons of crazy, random, fun memories with my friends like that though and ultimately, I think that was the best part about going abroad. Sure, I learned the language and that has helped me a ton even since I got back, but what I will remember the most is all the fun experiences I have had that couldn’t have happened anywhere or with anyone else. Going abroad made me friends and family that I will cherish forever. I encourage anyone who has the ability to travel abroad through the study abroad program.