During Chelsea's high school exchange she wrote a blog about her experiences and we are sharing some of her posts. Happy reading!
THE COUNTDOWN HAS STARTED!
With only 50 days left in Auckland before my big adventure, it would be an understatement to say that nerves were building! I have decided to make this blog now so I can show the build ups before the 20 hour flight to a life changing experience. I will aim to update my blog as much as possible (minimum once a week), that way all of you kiwis can keep up with my trip!
For the most part of the 6 months I will staying in a city called Murcia. I can't wait to finally meet my host family, and get settled in a brand new scence.
ARRIVING IN SPAIN
So the journey has officially begin.
The final goodbye at Auckland Airport left with me with very good spirits. Yes there were some tears, mainly from Mum when she gave me my final hug before sending me off on an adventure of a lifetime.
Safely arriving in Barcelona after a one very long journey. The 17-hour flight was definitely all apart of the experience, travelling from my hometown in Auckland all the way to Dubai was difficult. I managed to complete the world’s longest flight however if sitting in the same place wasn’t hard enough, I’m pretty sure the little baby in front of me had a mission to wake me up every time I drifted off to sleep, even the ear plugs couldn’t keep out the loud screaming. The 7-hour flight from Dubai to Barcelona felt like nothing compared to my last flight. It was great to finally make it to Spain, but I was definitely in need of a cold shower.
Once arriving in Spain, I knew this was going to be amazing. All the buildings are beautiful and there are flowers all around. Interestingly there are a lot more motorbikes on the road in Spain than there are in New Zealand.
After arriving at the hostel, we went up to our room and meet the German girls who were staying with us in our hostel. I made a few new friends; luckily all the girls spoke English! We then went on a bus tour past the Barcelona football stadium before arriving at the top of this very large mountain. On the mountain that overlooked all of Barcelona, there was a theme park and a beautiful large church plus an incredible view. I was extremely tired and slightly jet lagged so it was straight to bed for me when we got home.
My full day in Barcelona was incredible. Firstly we had a orientation meeting about rules and what to expect but after lunch it was time for exploring the city. We had another bus tour around the city, the buildings were something else, and the city was breathtakingly beautiful. From the apartment balconies, to the city parks and finally the city’s squares it was all amazing.
Tomorrow is a very big day, as I meet my host family for the first time! After a lot of emails it will be so exciting to be able to put faces to the names of my new family.
MEETING MY NEW FAMILY
Today I got to meet my host family!
After taking a 6-hour train ride from Barcelona to Alicante, we arrived to find our host families waiting to take us home. The train ride was very pretty as we travelled the entire way along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. As we passed through the different villages it was very interesting to see how different parts of Spain lived. I can also say I have passed my first nude beach; luckily the train was moving quickly is all I can say.
Leading up to meeting the family I was really nervous, mainly because my Spanish is not that great I was very worried as to how we would communicate. However after the 40min car ride with the dad to Alicante I knew I was going to fit in just fine. Even though there were a few language barriers, we were both able to have a sing along to his Bruno Mars, I am very glad they listen to some music in English because it is one thing which I know I will understand the words.
I am super thankful for the two eldest boys who can speak some English, as the parents are very limited. I guess that just means I will have to learn very quickly. In my family I have 4 boys Bruno 13, Hugo 12, Gonzalo 10, and Guillermo 7, my parents are Nani and Tatiana. They are all very welcoming and are very patient too.
On Wednesday I have my first day of school, with my limited knowledge of Spanish and being the ‘exchange student’ who knows no one I am defiantly worried. Seeming all classes are in Spanish I will understand very little, however I am looking forward to English class. This weekend I have my first tournament for water polo, my host dad Nani managed to get me into a team, which is very good as I am straight into playing.
I really love it here. I fit in very well with my family and they are all so loving and kind.
Last weekend I was lucky enough to travel south to see the beautiful city of Malaga. With 5 hours of travel on two different buses, it was definitely a solid trip, but in saying that it was so worth it.
Given that my home is closer to the coastal part of Spain, I don’t see much of the rural areas. This trip gave me the chance to see more of the countryside; I got to see a very different part of Spain.
I travelled with two exchange friends from the Murcia area, which was helpful and good company. We arrived at our amazing hostel, which happened to be right in the middle of the city, dropped off our bags and then headed out for a walk around the city centre.
The city centre is made up of small streets filled with shops and restaurants - perfect for walking around. There are still a few cars that drive on the streets so you have to be careful. The small streets bring such an amazing culture to the city, it seems to encourage people to talk to strangers and make friends.
Once all the students from around Spain had arrived in the hostel we went out for a great Italian dinner. It was so good to catch up with the friends who I made in Barcelona again and to see how they are all going with their different experiences. After dinner Stella (my most amazing German friend) and I went exploring. We found a beautiful light show in the middle of the city. This was a big highlight; the entire street was lit creating a gorgeous archway of light.
Day 2: More exploring of course! We had a tour guide who showed us around for Friday and Saturday. Firstly we went to the home of Pablo Picasso’s Birth, followed by a walk through the ancient romans temple. The temple was incredible! The beautiful structure of the entire building had me wondering how? After lunch we were given the afternoon off for free time AKA shopping!
Day 3: We all walked to a beautiful Catholic church, which was filled with stunning decorations. Next up we went to Picasso’s Museum. I would never call myself a major art fan but I really enjoyed walking around and seeing all these iconic pieces. Inspiring.
The day was finished with a walk to the beach and along the port. At this point it really sunk in how far away I was from my home. There was a ferry to AFRICA! Only 6 hours and then I would arrive in AFRICA! I really am on the other side of the world.
Lunch was at a restaurant on the beach, the 23-degree weather with no clouds had me thinking it was still summer here.
Day 4: Time for a few sad good byes, totally exhausted from the long days and non-stop chatting at night. It was time to go home for some good nights sleep.
I totally have fallen in love with Malaga it was amazing!
CHRISTMAS & NEW YEARS
Christmas in Spain was something that I have been looking forward to as part of this incredible exchange. The Spanish have very different traditions to those I am used to in New Zealand. Christmas is huge in this part of the world.
My school finished the week of Christmas, on Friday 23rd. This felt extremely weird for me - firstly it was cold and also I wasn’t at the beach. However my school was highly decorated in the theme of Christmas and excitement was building
On Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) we celebrated with the main Christmas meal – unlike in NZ where we eat lunch or dinner on Christmas Day. It was less of a sit down meal, as most of the night was spent in the kitchen eating tapas as they were prepared. By the time dinner was served around 11pm, it is safe too say that no one was very hungry. However, the food was amazing so we all just kept eating. There was a lot of prawns, some ham (‘Bellot’ is very different to our the NZ normal Christmas ham, this has cured for 3 years – amazing taste). The main course was steak - and there was absolute no room for dessert.
Christmas day was also very different. The presents were only from Santa (Papa Noel) - the brothers didn't buy each other presents, or presents for the parents, as this was not the done thing. The whole family then headed to a Spanish Restaurant for lunch and had a crab paella. There was lots of celebrations and family fun during this period.
And then came New Years. What a night.
My evening started with great family friends, with a lot of music, laughter and dancing. At the strike of mid-night a custom is to eat 12 grapes, one on each of the 12 strikes. This was both hilarious and challenging, I definitely thought it was going to be a lot harder then what it was, however managed to eat all 12. After watching the fireworks, it was time to welcome in the New Year the best way Spanish people know how, FIESTA!
I went to a big party with my friends. With over 1000 people, it is safe to say ‘big’ is an understatement. Fiesta started just after 1am, we danced the rest of the night away. By 6.30am I was done and had to leave the party, which was showing no signs of slowing down. I arrived home just before 7am exhausted. This is one party that I will never forget.
The Spainish celebrate Christmas differently, as they believe that the Three Kings arrived with gifts on the 6th of January. This means that most children receive their main Christmas gift on the 6th of January. On this day it is also a tradition to eat a certain type of cake, which has a mini king toy inside. Whoever’s piece of cake has the toy is crowned King/Queen of the day. I was luckily to have the winning piece and took the crown.
This has been one of the most incredible experiences. Christmas and New Year was a very different experience, especially being away from my family and friends. But my host family, and the incredible friends around me made this a very special part of my exchange.
Christmas and New Year are a special time of the year. I feel privileged to have been able to enjoy this time in Spain and know that I will take some new things back with me to NZ.
Now I’m back at school completing my final 20 days before departing home to New Zealand. Time is just going so fast, but I can’t wait too see my friends and family soon.
It only seemed right to go and visit the capital of Spain before I left. My second to last weekend in Spain, I packed my bags and headed off for a weekend away with some of the Exchange Students.
Madrid was something special. The entire city is so beautiful, and the architecture was incredible. We stayed in a hostel in Puerto del Sol, which is the middle of the city. The whole weekend was spent walking around and visiting famous sites.
The first day started with a tour around the city, and getting an orientation of Madrid. The Palacio Real de Madrid amazed me, it was beautiful crafted and I was stunned at how large it was. We were given a guided tour through the Palace, where we learnt about the importance of the different rooms. I would sure love to live here if I was a Queen.
Although hard to choose, my favourite place was the football stadium that I visited on Friday. Home to Real Madrid Football Club and Cristiano Ronaldo. We went on a tour of the stadium, and saw the field from all different areas. We were even able to go behind the gates onto the field and sit on the bench, before walking through the visitors changing rooms. It was very cool to see everything up close. But the best was saved till last, seeing Real Madrid’s trophy hall.
Saturday, was spent exploring the one of the most significant art galleries in Europe, Museo Nacional del Prado. Then across the road and we wandered through the beautiful Buen Retiro Park, followed by a small market. We finished the day by hiring boats and paddling around a pond in the middle of the park, while watching the sunset.
Sunday we spent the final morning with a little free time, giving us the opportunity to deepen the friendships that had formed since my first days in Barcelona. We wandered around the streets soaking in the atmosphere before heading back to the train station and the long train ride home.
Madrid was absolutely gorgeous; it was definitely a place I would love to come back to.
I would not have been able to do this incredible adventure without all of the help from Your Education. They have made this exchange very easy, not to mention giving me a lot of support leading up to this trip and I am very grateful for everything they have done for me.
If you would like to travel on an exchange be sure to look into this company.
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