I arrived in Spain at 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon, which basically meant I was fed a quick lunch and told “it’s nap time!” To be honest, it wasn’t a bad first impression of Sevilla for me, but the past week and a half has given me so much more than that. Our walking tours around the city have all ended in a collection of the most beautiful buildings, alleys, parks, and other structures on almost every corner. All our surroundings feel so surreal. Looking back at the pictures we have taken so far gives me a somewhat unfamiliar feeling, where I almost want to say, “are you sure that is me? This is what my life currently looks like??”

Our class was lucky enough to score a $25 beach trip to Portugal on our first weekend for a little taste of what Europe travel has to offer. We spent the entire day on the bottom of a beach cliff, climbing the rocks, swimming in the Atlantic, and hiding from rain under the rock arches. As the sun set on our drive back home, I felt undoubtedly reassured that this semester, unexpected as it might be, was going to be filled with those kinds of stories your grandma tells you at the dinner table. They are the kind of stories that makes every kid wish they could grow up faster so they can live them themselves.

I knew when I came here that not every day was going to be a sunny beach day in Portugal. I prepared myself for the difficulties that new countries and cultures can come with, albeit I hadn’t prepared myself for all of the challenges. The language barrier has been one of the biggest challenges I have faced. Communicating simple needs has never been something I have struggled with before; learning how to communicate with my host family and people around town is not an unexpected struggle, but expecting it doesn’t make it any easier moment-to-moment. Each situation I have encountered where I struggle with communicating in Spanish feels just as uncomfortable and embarrassing as the previous, but I walk out with more confidence each time I am successful in navigating it for myself.

My first week here it a curveball when I tested positive for COVID on the first day of classes. All of my professors, host family, and friends were incredibly accommodating to all my needs as I recovered, but being sick on my first week in a foreign country felt unbelievably vulnerable. When you grow up, you reach a certain point where you learn to be sick without your mom bringing you soup and blankets; for me that also came with trying to figure out which label is the Spanish brand of Ibuprofen. It also included my first visit to a Spanish urgent care, which was undeniably the height of my vulnerability. Fortunately, my wonderful housemother accompanied me! I’m happy my recovery was quick and came with help from everyone in my homestay and at ICS.

I’m trying not to anticipate my coming weeks here in an effort to enjoy the moment and see where I end up. Just the last ten days have already been wildly different than what I had imagined when I first arrived. It already feels like one semester here just won’t be enough.

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