I think that at some point, we all fall into some sort of routine. When I’m at home in the US, typically, I’d get up, get ready for school, go to class, try to find time to eat, do homework and relax for a while. Since coming to Spain, I’ve tried to reestablish that since of normalcy within my daily routine. However, the more I tried to make everything like home, the more I actually found that I wasn’t enjoying myself. For lack of a better phrase, you really just have to “let Spain take you away.” Oftentimes, I would just ignore random people who talked to me a bit, out of fear that they wouldn’t understand me, or that I’d possibly offend them somehow.
This feeling was especially evident when I started classes here at the Centro de Español como Lengua Extranjera. My class is quite small, consisting of 2 Americans (myself and 1 girl from Texas), 3 Chinese girls, and 4 girls from Ghana. Initially, that was a big shock for me; I was the only guy in the class. My professor later told me that boys weren’t common in the classes, and that last year she’d had a class of all girls. It was especially awkward for me because all the girls knew each other already; they’d all had the same class together last year. I was the shy, new guy who barely spoke. For the first week or so, my professor was quite understanding of this, but eventually she did force me to participate. Even then, I wouldn’t really talk to them unless I had to. After class, I’d go home and retreat to my laptop, where I could chat with my friends on Facebook and see some familiar faces. Unfortunately, this made me miss home even more, and I felt incredibly alone and isolated. However, as time passed, I did start opening up to my classmates a little more. This happened a lot when I decided to take a cooking class once a week with a few of them. The Ghanaian knew English, so we were able to communicate if Spanish became difficult, and it was a great time. Sure, there are still times that I miss home and long to do things that my friends always do together, but overall, I am starting to feel like I belong here more.
I brought up the subject of homesickness to my host mom, who completely understood. Of course, she was sad that I was sad, but as she told me, “It’s okay that you miss your family and friends, but while you’re here, you’re as family to me as my daughter, and you can think of me as your mother.” That certainly does help; to know that you are wanted and loved by someone, even though you aren’t technically related, is a great feeling. I remember another instance that happened after a particularly hard day of classes. I’d forgotten to study for a quiz, and I hadn’t done well. My professor wasn’t happy with me, and she let me have it. After that, I just wanted to hop on a plane and go home. I didn’t say anything to any of my classmates as I left, but they knew I was upset. I took a nap, and when I woke up, I had a message from the other American student on my phone. She’d messaged me just to say how happy she was that I was in her class. She’d been the new girl last year, and she knew how overwhelming that could be. She also said that overall, I seemed to know Spanish quite well, and that Esperanza (our professor), though really hard, was a really good professor, and I would learn a lot. Lastly, she told me that if I ever had any trouble in the class, I could ask her or anyone else in the class, and they would gladly help me. After that, I felt a lot more comfortable and welcomed in class, and I can proudly say that I consider my classmates to be some very good friends of mine.
Then, there are a few times where something extremely unexpected happens, and I feel overwhelmed. For example, one morning, my alarm failed to wake me up. I woke up half an hour late, and was trying to move fast so that I could still make it to class on time. However, as I left my house and started walking, I noticed that it had rained the previous night, and the sidewalk was wet. I tried to be careful, but my crutches slid on the sidewalk, I failed to catch myself, and I took a nasty fall. My chin and the inside of my mouth were bleeding and I was having trouble getting up due to the wet sidewalk. I had no idea what to do. The university was still some distance off, and I had no band-aids on me. I could walk back home, but that would mean I’d be even later to class. Fortunately, a Spanish couple had heard and seen me fall. They picked up my crutches and helped me up. One of them then told me to wait there for a second, and ran off before I could object. He came a minute later with some tissues and a small bandage. I wasn’t expecting anyone to help me, but they did. They could have easily left me to fend for myself on the ground, but they didn’t; they helped me even though they had no idea who I was. I arrived late to class, but when my professor saw the band-aid and I explained what happened, she was just glad that I was ok, and, as they say in Spain, “No pasa nada.”