Friday, August 14, 2009

Lo Ultimo

This is a couple of months overdue, but it’s something I think is important in order to complete this blog. I wanted to write down my final thoughts about my experience in Madrid and now that I’ve had some time to reflect I am ready to do that.

I think anyone who has kept in touch with me while I was away knows that it wasn’t an easy year for me. It was much more challenging than I expected and as a result, really taught me a lot about myself. My first month was a big adjustment and in addition to simply learning to live in another country I was studying for the LSAT. At first, everything was hard. Grocery shopping was hard, using the metro was hard, Spanish was hard. I had lived on my own before, but not like that. Right after the LSAT I got pneumonia, although it took several doctor’s visits and tests and nearly two months to figure that out. I’d say that’s the sickest I’ve ever been so to deal with it on my own and over there was pretty tough. After those first couple months I think I was somewhat disillusioned. I had imagined my Spanish life would be something pulled from a romance novel or an adventure movie, and it hadn’t really shaped up that way.

Things took a big turn for the better after Thanksgiving. My biggest challenge after that point stemmed from a bad relationship with the administration at my school. I have never really had a job where the employer didn’t love me and appreciate how hard I worked. That wasn’t the case at our school. Pretty much all the English Language Assistants had problems with the administration. But they all agreed that I was mistreated the most. I left on a really bad note with the administration which is unfortunate. I think the positive aspect is that I learned a valuable lesson. I didn’t present problems early on as they occurred and so by the time issues were addressed they were much more complex. Additionally, I’m going into the legal profession so I guess I should get used to working with jerks, right?

Towards the end of the year, as I mentioned, one of our fifth graders, Diego, died in a tragic accident. Telling his classmates what happened and seeing them grieve at such a young age was one of the more painful things I've experienced.

So there were struggles. But there were joys as well!

It’s hard to even summarize all the wonderful things and places I experienced.

First, I never thought I would enjoy teaching elementary school as much as I did. I talked about them a lot in the blog, but the kids were truly a joy and really cheered me up when things were bad. I could see myself teaching again in the future.

I was able to travel during my year and see a lot of beautiful places. I think favorites include Granada, San Sebastian, Munich, Dublin, and Paris. I look back on the trips I took and think of how unbelievably lucky I have been. A year and a half ago I had never been outside the US and now I have gotten to see so many beautiful cities and cultures.

Most importantly, I made some invaluable friends in Madrid and I really couldn’t have survived without them. They know who they are. We have been keeping in touch since we all left and I know at some point we’ll all see each other again. Right now I miss them more than I miss Spain!

Living in Spain taught me things and changed me in ways I didn’t foresee. I appreciate my family more than ever. I couldn’t call home whenever I wanted. I faced problems my family couldn’t help me with or talk me through. I missed them more than I ever have and was so happy to see them again at home!

I learned to appreciate being born an English speaker. English is a very highly valued language around the globe and so often foreigners told me, “you are so lucky English is your first language.” Having taught it myself, I know that it is a difficult language that often doesn’t make sense and is hard to pronounce and write. Did you know we have like 25 vowel sounds?! We do! Spaniards have five that never change. So be grateful you speak English.

I also have a new appreciation for my country. I think a lot of people who go abroad experience two things: They learn areas where America has room to improve and they learn that America is an enviable place to be. I absolutely experienced this. I saw that America has work to do. Our public transit, public education, and especially our public healthcare (or lack there of currently) are somewhat of a laughing stock around the globe. Spaniards would ask me about these things and were often shocked at the way things are over here. On the other hand, I learned America is an incredibly special place and I feel SO blessed and privileged to be born an American. I appreciate my freedom, my vote, the warmth of Americans, American efficiency, the American work ethic, the American dream! These truly are things that are uniquely American. I feel so inspired to work to improve my nation I’m so proud of.

Mostly, I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunities I’ve had. Not everyone gets the experience I did and with all of its ups and downs I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I’d like to thank everyone who read this blog throughout the year. It was a really fun and rewarding experience. I’m so glad I will have a permanent record and reminder of the amazing year I have had. Without everyone’s encouragement I might not have continued so I thank you for that.

I’m starting an entirely new chapter of my life which is sure to be every bit as thrilling and challenging as the last. I’ve just had my first class at Berkeley Law. I’m nervous but also excited for what lies ahead. I think I have the opportunity to make some positive change in America. While I would love to continue writing, I think it’s somewhat unrealistic to think I will have time to keep a blog in my first year of law school. Second or third, maybe. But the first year is pretty rough. I really do love writing creatively so I would like to pick it up again in the future.

Thank you again for reading and for your continued encouragement and support!

Hasta pronto, un beso!


rcn said...

Hey Audrey!

I found your blog by chance, I am also at UC Berkeley. As an Spaniard in America I found the other side that you write about kind of curious and interesting.

I don't know if you know but there is a Spanish movie every other Thursday on campus, and some other sutff, by the Iberia-berkeley group ( ). If you miss to migle with the crazy Spaniards you should check that out.

Anonymous said...

hey rcn,

thanks for that info! i would love to go to the spanish films and to chat with some spaniards! could you email me so that i have your email and i can ask you a few questions?

mine is