Spain #9: Personal Growth

Tessa Mannix ’20 discovers a “newfound confidence” in her Spanish speaking abilities.

Upon arriving in Spain, each and every member of our group has been emphatically pushed out of our comfort zones. Whether it has been trying some puzzling meal our host mom explained too quickly, navigating the winding streets of a new city, or habitually eating dinner at a shocking 10 pm, life in Spain could not be more different from the familiarity of our homes, or life at Deerfield.

Amidst the first couple of days in Spain, I felt comfortable with directions, loved the food, and had overcome a tiring jet lag. However, I soon realized where my comfort faded. I could not shake the embarrassment I felt each time I spoke to a Spanish person, always trying to conceal my thick American accent and finishing every conversation with the same apology: “lo siento sobre mi Español, estoy aprendiendo.”
Within the first couple of days, I must have said “lo siento” a hundred times, allowing the insecurities of my speaking ability get the best of me. It was not until the fourth day of classes, when our beloved teacher, Rose Rivera, spoke to us, saying that “we are supposed to make mistakes!” “They are part of the learning process,” she said, “they are expected and they do not bother the people we speak to.”

As simple as it may sound, Rosa’s words have transformed my experience in Spain. I realized that I know much more than I had given myself credit for, which has allowed me to carry a newfound confidence with me across every corner of Cádiz. Rosa inspired me to get over my embarrassment and to turn over new leaves, whether it be speaking to a stranger on the bus, or asking my host mom about Spanish current events. Even if what I am saying could not be further from grammatically correct, I say it with confidence, and more often than not, I am understood.

Within life outside my comfort zone, I have met new people, had poignant conversations, and grown as not only a student, but as a person. I have learnt a great deal about myself and what I am capable of. I could not be more grateful for the opportunity Deerfield has provided, and the countless people that have made this trip among the most special months of my life.

From left to right: Tessa Mannix ’20, Taylor Coan ’21, Michelle Zimmerman ’21

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