Student News

Spain#4: Leaning Into Discomfort

Paulina Baltazar – June 6, 2019

Sydney Bluestein ’21 describes her first day at the Salesianos School, where students will spend the next couple of weeks taking language and culture classes.

Upon our arrival in Cádiz, I watched the deep orange and yellow sky from the ninth floor of my apartment. My stomach churned with butterflies, as I was nervous to go to a school where I would be labeled an outsider because my tongue could not roll r’s with ease. What would the school kids think of me? Will they think my clothing is strange? What if they are unable to understand me? However, when I arrived the next morning to the catholic school in Cádiz I was greeted with nothing but smiles as school children were excited to learn about the Americans.

I heard distant foreign conversations, while roaming the unfamiliar white walls, which I failed to understand unfortunately. The classrooms did not offer the typical wooden tables and chairs that I was used to, but rather those made of metal. Each time I moved, my chair squealed as the metal met the perfect marble tile. After the typical “ice-breaking” activities, we were allowed a thirty-minute break to do with as we pleased. Much of our class decided to explore the nearby plaza. It was once the gates closed with a thud that I realized this was my first time alone in a foreign country. There was no one to oversee me, no one to tell me how to order my food. I felt free. Those butterflies which were once in my stomach now represented my liberty.

Yet, in just a short thirty minutes we returned to the school to find out we were going to be meeting other school children that were similar in age to us. We were to have conversations in both Spanish and a bit of English. Of course, the Spanish would benefit our learning experience as would the English enhance theirs. However, at that moment the butterflies had returned inside of me, as I feared they would not understand my American accent, a sign that I was not perfect. I entered the plaza where we were to meet with an uneasy look on my face. However, gladly, I left feeling more confident which is the point of studying in Cádiz after all.

After my first conversation in Spanish with three boys who were avid enthusiasts of soccer, I hesitantly asked if they understood what I was saying. They responded confidently saying that they understood each word and that our accents were not even “tanto extraño” (that strange). With that little boost of confidence, I proceeded to learn that most students longed to travel to New York City and loved artists such as Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber. Most students loved sports, the most popular being soccer and basketball and the occasional karate. But more frequently, I heard that boys loved to play video games. It seemed life in Cádiz did not differ drastically to life in Deerfield or in the United States.

Although I was thousands of miles away from Deerfield and home, these conversations made me feel welcome. Here were kids who lived nearly the same lives as us, the only difference being their primary language. Though this was a large obstacle to overcome, the longer I remain in Spain, the more confident I feel in my abilities to communicate and survive in a foreign country. It is with this confidence that I look forward to branching out and trying new things. There are definitely parts of Spanish culture which I am not yet familiar, but with the help of my host family and Mundolengua, I hope to try as many new things as a month will allow me. Hopefully lots of those things will be delicious food…