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By anuhyabobba

When I first landed in Buenos Aires, we were asked to meet outside the arrivals gate to meet with program officials and other students. We were then assigned a partner to share a cab with, as we headed to meet our host families. I had two large suitcases and a carry on, and when we walked outside to the cab, the driver became furious at the amount of luggage I had. He started arguing that his car was too small (it was not) and wanted to be paid more, and I stared blankly. I spoke no Spanish, and all I could do was exactly that -- stare blankly ahead. Thankfully, my cab partner communicated for me and settled the issue. It was a small moment, but it was also when it finally hit me that I was in a country where my ability to communicate was nonexistent. I felt so deeply out of place, and for the rest of the cab ride, I remained silent. I entered my home stay to be greeted by my host mom who spoke minimal English. The first three weeks of living in Argentina was characterized by a lot of head nodding to sentences I could not understand and being heavily dependent on others to communicate for me.

After I started to align with the pace of my Spanish classes, I began to pick up on the language tremendously. I now not can speak Spanish well, I can understand it also for the most part. This improvement was one I did not see coming, and one I am all too thankful for. Because when I had my ability to communicate removed, I became highly self reliant to do daily actions and have become very grateful for the newfound independence. My program is set to end next week, so I have been thinking a lot about the areas I have grown in.

But, I also have to come to terms with leaving. I have made Buenos Aires my home, and to return to the United States will be a strange type of readjustment -- adjusting to a place that is already so familiar! Granted I have travels planned out after the program ends, this discussion of coming back is nonetheless a difficult but also a healthy one to have. I am so grateful to have met the people I did and for the experiences I went through to be at the place of comfort and peace I am at now, but I miss so much my family, my friends, and my life at GW. With no doubt, I will be returning to a different environment, one which I left for four months. I will be returning to people who have in these four months have changed like I have. Being here and witnessing change daily has helped in not fearing it and rather to embracing it fully.

All I can say is that I am happy to be here and I am happy to be coming home. Thank you also to Buenos Aires for being so sweet to me this semester.

By billienkatz

I just returned back to Barcelona from a weekend trip to Paris and I have never felt more at home as I do at this very moment. Maybe it had something to do with having to navigate Charles de Gaulle airport and the bus/metro system alone with no working knowledge of French, aside from croissant and crepe. On the other hand, maybe it was being scrutinized by Easy Jet as I stuffed my carry-on bag into a too small metal been to make sure it was within the correct dimensions and restrictions - isn't flying budget airlines a ton of fun?

While I had yet another incredible and moment worthy trip exploring a major European city, I found myself ready to return to the comfort of Barcelona and Spanish speakers and my metro system. The comfort in the Spanish language factor is ultimately what has lead to the reflection of this post. When I first arrived to Barcelona on January 7th I was terrified to have to speak in Spanish because while i knew my colors really well, my not so extensive vocabulary stopped there.
This is one of the most obvious ways I have grown over the last three,intend that I have been here. Not only am I fumbling through countries where I don't speak the native language, but I find myself being so ready and excited to seal and hear Spanish again once I know its time to head home to Barcelona. This makes me realize that despite the fact that this experience has gone by way too fast (I have exactly one month left), I'm proud of myself for not only
making Barcelona, the people, and their language feel like home, but for recognizing how far I have come in the last three months.
Here's to one final month that can maybe top the last three,

By christinatometchko

Can you imagine being 10 or 12 years old and having a science or art class taught in an entirely different language?  If you're an elementary school student living in Barcelona, this is the norm.

The official language in Barcelona is Catalan-- a mixture of Spanish and French-- that is native to the Cataluyna region of northern Spain. During Francisco Franco's dictatorship in the twentieth century, the Catalan language was outlawed in Spain and school was exclusively taught in Spanish. Following Franco's death in 1975, the ban on Catalan was lifted and many cities throughout northern Spain re-instituted it as their official language.

Flash forward to present day Barcelona and school is now primarily taught in Catalan with additional classes in Spanish and English. From the first day of kindergarten to the end of their primary school education, students in Barcelona are taught in three different languages and often end up being fluent or at least conversational in each one of them. I can't wrap my head around learning three different languages at such a young age and give the Spanish education system so much credit for recognizing the importance of knowing more than one language in this increasingly globalized world!

It's also really interesting that students in Barcelona don't just have an English class or a Spanish class where they learn about grammar and sentence structure.  In addition to those basic language courses, they also have other classes like Math and History that are taught in another language. While I'm sure this can be very difficult for some students, it's a great way to help them vastly expand their vocabulary and learn the language in a relatively quick amount of time.

I witnessed some of these struggles with the language barrier during my first day volunteering in an Art classroom at the Pare Poveda school. The class was taught entirely in English, the students were required to speak in English, and they even listened to American music as they were working on their projects. As I walked around the classroom and helped the students with their work, I spoke to them in English and was surprised by the vast differences in their levels of comprehension. Some students understood everything that I said and were able to respond fluently in English. Some students understood a little of what I said but could only respond in Spanish. And some students didn't understand a single thing that I said and just nodded their heads and smiled politely when I spoke.

Throughout the afternoon I had to consciously stop myself from speaking Spanish when the students were confused or didn't understand what I was saying. Even though that would have made things so much easier, it wouldn't do anything to help them improve their English which was my main purpose for being there. Instead, I had to find creative ways to get my point across like using my hands to help explain what I was saying or drawing things that I was trying to talk about. While communicating with the students was a bit tricky at times, I had so much fun and can't wait to volunteer again next week!

By meaggymurphy

Hola from Spain! If my calculations are correct, it's been 16 days since I left the good ol' US of A. After a bit of traveling in Ireland and Madrid, I was able to settle into my apartment in Pamplona, where I'll be living with 4 Spanish roommates for the semester.

I spent a couple days at orientation (1st discovery: the Spanish love icebreakers just as much as Americans) for international students, getting to know the city and lots of students from all four corners of the globe. We took a day trip to nearby San Sebastián (sun! beach! tourists galore!), where I saw my dream house from afar on the top of a mountain in the middle of the bay. Back in Pamplona, I spent a few days indulging in my status as a newcomer, exploring the Casco Antiguo (the old part of the city) and getting lost along the way (2nd discovery: Pamplona is quite fond of its roundabouts, which make navigating to specific places confusing and may or may not have caused me to take a couple hour-long detours on the outskirts of the city).

So far, the most challenging part of arriving here has been, surprise surprise, speaking Spanish 24/7. Luckily, I love learning Spanish. When we began classes this week, I was interested to see whether or not I would regret my decision to take all my classes in Spanish. For example, what if I have a professor who mumbles or has an accent or makes fun of my accent in front of the class?! But after introducing myself to my professors and sitting through the classes, I feel much more at ease. It won't be easy, but I know that if I dedicate myself to understanding and work hard, I'll be glad I forced myself to surround myself with Spanish all day, everyday.

Now, to wrap this up with a couple personal goals that I have for the semester:

1. Speak and learn as much Spanish as humanly possible!

2. Of course, do well in class (not the most exciting of goals, but there it is!).

3. Meet as many people as humanly possible and get to know different points of view (lucky for me, everyone I've met so far has been incredibly friendly and just as interested in my point of view as I am in theirs).

That's all for now! TTFN y adios!