Passport, Visa, Flight tickets – check, check, check.
Homestay family – uncheck.
Arrived in Spain – check.
As I am currently living and loving life in Madrid, I figured I would take some time to write my first, of hopefully many, blog posts. First, I should warn you – I am not a writer by any means. This is simply a way for me to share my personal experiences while abroad with YOU (my friends & family). Yes, I have my social media accounts still – facebook, instagram, snapchat – but while here, I plan on fully diving into the culture and ways of life by being present to the people and adventures that await my short 5 month stay.
To reference my list above, you read it correctly..I had everything I needed for my journey abroad and hey, I had even arrived in Spain – 4,867 miles away from home. The only problem that lied ahead at that moment, was that I had no where to go and no way to contact anyone other than through email once I figured out how to connect to the wifi at the baggage claim. Talk about slightly terrifying. But I wasn’t too worried, I would just sit in the airport all day if I had to until I knew what to do! Lucky, that wasn’t the case. As I gathered my luggage and walked out of the airport, I finally took my first breath of Madrid air – I am actually here, whoa. I stand there for about 5 minutes, determined to get a taxi and take it to the university, but first I needed to figure out how to do this. I am confident and sure of what I’ll say (in Spanish of course), go up to the driver who asks where I am going..and I completely forget how to even say the name of the place I was heading (Alberto Aguilera 21). After a stutter or two, I finally get the name out and the cab drive was completely silent from then on…awkward. The driver drops me off across the street and rambles something in Spanish pointing to buildings. I just said okay, si, gracias and acted confident in my simple Spanish phrases. He drove off and I felt lost. What did he say? Is it the building right here or is it that one there? Well the one to my right looked more like a University type building so I went there, turns out it was the other building. Ay Dios mio. I look ridiculous…I was hauling my luggage up and down stairs and in and out of buildings like the lost tourist I am. I get to the right building finally and then the real headache begins.
Here I am in Spain, with a slight advantage over the language barrier – but the gap is still quite large at this time. And now I must use my broken Spanish to have a conversation about finding a host family. Lets be real – the nitty-gritty of the situation was terrible. I.am.not.an.emotional.person. but at this time all I wanted to do was cry. I was having such a hard time, they were saying they couldn’t find a family and maybe I should stay in a hostel for a few nights while they keep looking. WHAT. Oh, I should also mention at this time I had absolutely no way to contact anyone – I had no service, no wifi, nothing. I also had about 60 euros to my name due to my money not being transferred into my bank at this time. They had found one woman, who was available but it would just be her. While this shouldn’t and probably wouldn’t have been a problem, I think even they knew they could find me something better. On my preference sheet I had indicated that I would like to live with a family that had children my age or younger – this would help me adapt and learn the language better I thought. This woman, probably in her mid to late 50’s, comes into the office – which made it harder to say no, but spoiler alert, I did- and although I know little Spanish, I could understand a few of the words she was saying. She was hoping I was okay with a quiet life, a lot of downtime and relaxing; she wanted to make sure that I knew she would not be making me American style breakfasts, but would just leave me something in the morning and then be home at night to speak Spanish with me. What I’m going for here – is that I was just not getting a good vibe. This is when I just wanted to cry (honestly I blame the jetlag and huge lack of sleep over the past couple of days), I wanted the true family aspect of a home-stay and it seemed like this was my only option. I was able to tell the lady no, but thank her for being so willing and she went on her way. The office kept looking but in the meantime they told me they could get me a list of hostels as this may take a few days. I entertained the idea that maybe I should just switch to apartment living with other students and skip the home-stay, even though I did not want this. Then my saving grace happened. Someone answered their phone (this was one of the main problems, as it was still the holiday season here, most people were probably not home until the following Monday -and it was Thursday), and they said that they’d be home around 3:30 pm and I could go meet them to see if it’d be a good fit. I’ll save you from guessing, they were, and they are!
Meeting people for the first time is awkward. Especially when you’re like “Hey, I just got here from America, and I might live with you for 5 months.” For the record I did not say that, but that’s what was happening. I only met half of the family – my host mom and one brother, and they showed me around the flat (apartment). It is not what I had expected for an apartment in Madrid, it’s very modern and quite spacious, but I love it. I went back to the school, gathered my luggage and moved into my new casa, where I later on met my host dad and my other brother! (family picture to come later)
During an adventure like this, it is easy to want someone to “hold your hand” through it all. My mom had mentioned that’d make it easier, and I began to think so too. But when I was walking to get my things I realized that it was better that I had to do this alone. Being alone, in a new country, a language barrier, and adulthood – in its fullness it was something beautiful, liberating and in all honesty, it is shaping my independence not only here in Madrid but in life.
Bueno, that is all for now! Thanks for reading and maybe my next blog will be more interesting..or not. Watch for more updates on my #spainshenanigans!