In honor of the half-way mark of my high school exchange in Spain–five months this week–and also because I have a bad case of writer’s block, I’ve compiled a list of all the things that I’ve learned so far in Spain and in my life in general.
1. Languages take time. How awesome would it be if we could just pick up a language within a week or two? I know that I, personally, would pull multiple all-nighters in a row studying one language if it meant that I would know it at the end of the week. Unfortunately, learning a language is a slow process that takes time and practice.
2. Relaxing is good for you. I’m one of those people who has to be in perpetual motion, so it goes against my natural instinct to stop for a little bit to relax. To me, free time used to mean that I wasn’t doing enough, but having a daily siesta has taught me that resting is not the same as being lazy. In fact, taking a half an hour break re-energizes me to get back to daily craziness (or, hopefully, lack thereof).
3. Americans care way too much about the Superbowl. Seriously, it’s a football game. Chill out.
4. People are not mind readers. Contrary to popular belief, people do not automatically know what you are thinking at any given moment. In a relationship your partner will not use their sixth sense to know what you want for dinner. In the same way, when you are in another country and can’t remember a word you cannot just make strange hand gestures and facial expression and expect the other person to know what you are trying to say.
5. Be nice. It never ceases to amaze me just how far not being an enormous jerk will get you. Being polite is a sign of respect, and those who show respect gain respect. If you like something, compliment it. If something is delicious, say so. If you absolutely hate something with every fiber of your being, shut up. It’s that simple.
6. You cannot eat jamón and only jamón for every meal. Apparently it causes some kind of ‘nutritional problem’. I’m still not entirely sure that this is true.
7. There is always more to learn. I have gained so many things from my experiences so far in Spain, but I think that by far the most important thing I’ve learned is that you can always learn more. And if you ever feel that you understand everything you clearly understand nothing.
8. Don’t eat the yellow snow.
9. Change is good. We, as humans, have a tendency to slip into a pattern in which we are most comfortable. We have specific people we choose to spend time with, certain places we go, foods we eat and even things we say. There’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes we become so comfortable in our beaten track that we become afraid of anything different. We think, “I’m happy the way things are. Why change?”, but what we don’t realize is that bad things are going to happen whether we change or not; that’s out of our control. But if we choose not to change, we ensure that things will never get better either. There’s absolutely no way of knowing if we prefer something one way or the other if we’ve only ever tried one way. It could definitely be worse, but what if it’s so, so much better?
10. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself. This is probably the hardest thing that I’m learning to do, and it’s still a work in progress. It’s easy to feel constantly judged by others, but chances are, even if they did see you fail miserably at volleyball, they’re laughing with you, not at you. No one, and I mean NO ONE, is going home and spending the whole afternoon thinking about how awful you were in gym this morning (trust me, if they were I would have moved to Siberia by now). Laugh it off and move on.
I hope that you learned something from all this, there are some really good pieces of advice in there. Probably. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. Feel free to take my wisdom with a grain of salt. I won’t be offended. After all, I’m still learning.