The end :(

I can’t believe it – it is already the last week of my stay in Alicante! In so many ways, I feel as if I just arrived. When I told my host family that my flight leaves Saturday morning, in just six days, they were visibly shocked—my mamá thought I had another week! With this realization, we have come up with a list of things we have not gotten around to doing: on Wednesday, I am teaching them how to make chocolate chip cookies; on Thursday, we are playing our last tennis match; on Friday, we are going to their favorite restaurant. My host mother also lamented that she hasn’t made me her special brownies, or taken me to hike up a nearby mountain they love, so we decided that I have to return and then we can complete these tasks too.

The end is approaching quickly, and I have so many mixed feelings about my departure. In many ways, I miss my life in the United States; I, of course, miss my family and friends, and could not be more thrilled to see them, but I miss some little things too, things I hadn’t appreciated at home before living in Spain, like free water, air conditioning, and big cups of coffee! On the other hand, there are so many people and places here that have made my experience so great, and that I cannot imagine saying ¡adios! to already. Obviously, at the top of this list is my host family. They have been so generous, kind, and simply fun. I will miss my mamá’s sweet smile every time she checked on me, my papá’s endless dad jokes, the little sister I never had asking me for advice, and playing tennis with my brother. I hope this will not be goodbye forever, because I have truly grown to appreciate and love this wonderful family as my own.


I will miss the city itself, too—its sandy beaches, its history, its energy. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t admired my surroundings on my morning walk to the tram with a deep sense of awe and gratitude.


Finally, I will miss the language. Though I knew I had a passion for Spanish before arriving, I was embarrassed by my lack of skills; I was struggling to keep up, and hesitant to talk. Now, after so much practice and rapid advancement throughout the past several weeks, I absolutely love listening and speaking this beautiful, challenging, exciting language. I am no longer scared to contribute or make a mistake. On the contrary, I will gladly make mistakes if it means I will be corrected and improve further. While, of course, I will continue taking demanding Spanish classes at Notre Dame, that setting can never compare to being completely immersed in the language. I am already exploring my options for more Spanish language development next summer. 🙂

Los Estados Unidos

Over the past several weeks I have spent living with and getting to know my family, we have discussed los Estados Unidos, the United States, a lot. They always have questions, but I have quickly discovered that they know so much about our language, culture, and conventions already—much more than I had known about Spain before this summer. For example, my hermana, María, loves American music. She listens to Green Day and Avril Lavigne every day, and she enjoys watching our music videos on Youtube. She is extremely curious about everything she sees or hears in these, always questioning what a certain phrase in a song means, or inquiring if the popular girls in America are really always cheerleaders. She also told me that she wants to go to college in the United States for a couple of months (at first, she had Harvard in mind, but I’d like to think that I have convinced her to go for Notre Dame instead J). My hermano, Miguel, watches American TV shows and movies. One day, as soon as I arrived home after class, he came racing up to me to show me that a character in “Malcolm in the Middle” had been wearing a Notre Dame sweatshirt during an episode. From these popular movies and songs, my Spanish siblings are aware of American holidays, customs, cities, and more.

My Spanish papá’s perspective is different. He is more interested in historical and current events, which I have found produce a more negative image of the United States in his mind. He is constantly mentioning Trump’s latest news-worthy decision or tweet, and he has told me several stories, one about an American sea vessel claiming treasure found in Spanish waters and another about the United States (in his version) unrightfully detaining a Spanish lawyer. From these conversations, I have gathered that while he admires many things about the United States, he does not worship it in the way many adolescents do; he considers that our country, at times, has acted and continues to act entitled, racist, sexist, and more. It has been very interesting to hear about their views of our country and culture.

The Bulls

Currently, one of the more controversial topics in Spain concerns the toros (the bulls). The bull fights that take place throughout the whole country are a very long-standing tradition and notable aspect of the culture. However, while some Spaniards still consider this practice acceptable and important, it is estimated that at least half of the present population are against the bull fights because (I tell you this, reader, in case you are as blissfully ignorant as I was upon arrival) the bulls are always killed afterwards! Thus, the majority are against this massive scale of animal cruelty for the sole purpose of human entertainment. Yet the issue is certainly more complicated than that, because the industry of the toros in a substantial part of the nation’s economy, from the many jobs it provides directly to the millions of tourists it attracts each year.

I decided to ask my professors about their thoughts on this topic. One, a middle-aged man, immediately responded that he does not support it whatsoever because of the aforementioned slaughter of the toros. He commented that most of the people he knows are also not in favor, but that it tends to still be defended by older generations. My other professor, a young woman, hesitated for a moment before answering. She explained that, of course, she does not like that the bulls die, but that her grandfather was a bull fighter and that her whole family still enjoys bull fights, so she has gone several times. She appreciates the tradition, and also mentioned the significance of the toros to the Spanish economy as one of the reasons she is reluctant to advocate against the custom completely.

When several of my classmates decided to attend a bullfight in Alicante this week, I chose not to join them, and I am glad. While I acknowledge that the subject is complex, and I respect other opinions, I personally had no interest in seeing the bulls tricked and teased before marching off to their deaths. Turns out, most of the other girls ran out of the arena 10 minutes into the show anyway. Guess it was a good choice!

Already 1/4 done?!

And just like that, Week 2 comes to a close! My life here is starting to settle down a bit, to become more of a routine—but at the same time, I still cannot believe I get to live in this beautiful place for two whole months.

My favorite of my three classes is my colloquial language and conversation class. We learn a lot of really valuable vocabulary and expressions—the kinds of things one can’t find on Google translate. The material has been more helpful than I could have ever imagined; every day my family says something that I only understand because of that course. There are certain slang words that are particularly interesting, one of which is leche. Literally, leche translates to “milk”, but they apply it in all sorts of different ways, both positive and negative, in the local dialect. For example, pegarle una leche means, more or less, “to hit someone”, while ¡Eres la leche! means “You’re the best!” Another intriguing term is hostias. This word translates to “hosts”, like the Body of Christ, but here it is used as a cuss word used to express shock or frustration.

Fortunately, I was able to ask my Spanish siblings and parents about their thoughts on these expressions. According to them, leche is very normal in this city and region, but nowhere else. All Alicantinos, men, women, adults and children alike, understand it and say it frequently. Hostias is different, however. In fact, one time my host dad said it at the dinner table while relating a story, but when I told him we had just learned that word in class, he blushed as my host mom shook her head. He was embarrassed that I had caught that word because, as my mom explained, he should not have said that in front of me and the other kids at the dinner table. Clearly, that word is more inappropriate. Instead, there is a similar word that many people, especially kids, use to stop themselves from saying hostias, which is ostras (the beginnings sound the same in the Spanish pronunciation).

These kinds of terms certainly can make understanding native speakers more difficult, but it also makes learning more interesting! Who knows, maybe soon I will feel bold enough to try using one myself.

¡Hola, España!

Hola from Alicante! Already one week down, and only more seven to go; time is already flying by too fast.

I arrived in this beautiful city, located on the southeast coast of Spain, last Sunday. The first night, our program had organized a tapas dinner at a local restaurant so that we could have our first taste of Spanish food and culture together. We tried many different traditional dishes, but my favorite was tortillas de patatas. As the waiter set down the plates, he told us about the recipe: although every version is a little bit different, the base is always potatoes and eggs. First, they fry the potatoes in olive oil, and after they mix them with eggs and cook it; in many ways, it reminds me of an omelet. People often adds things like bread, onions, etc. Bottom line: it is delicious! Our program director also informed us that the meal is extremely common in this region of Spain (a fact which was quickly confirmed when my host family made it for me the next day). The first historical reference to the dish is from 1817! Obviously, it would have been a simple and decently nutritious meal to prepare. I want to learn how to make it so that my family and friends at home can try it.

I moved in with my host family on Monday. My mamá española’s name is Marisol, her husband is Miguel, their daughter is María, and their son is also Miguel. They are all extremely sweet and, most importantly, patient with my lack of Spanish skills! The first couple of days, I could barely understand anything they said, whether they were talking directly to me or to each other. However, I have already noticed a lot of improvement; by now, I can almost always keep up with their conversations, even though it is still pretty intimidating to participate in their rapid exchanges. Native speakers tend to use slang and not pronounce certain letters, so it will be a process. However, I also started classes today, one of which is about colloquial language, so I know it will help tremendously. I am confident that, at this pace, I will be almost fluent by July.

Throughout the rest of the week, I did a walking tour of downtown Alicante, visited the city’s ancient castle, travelled to another little town nearby with amazing views, swam in natural waterfalls on the side of a mountain, watched María’s basketball game, went to the market with Marisol, and enjoyed the beaches. Tomorrow I have a bike tour, and this weekend we are going to Valencia. All in all, I could not be more grateful to be here, or more excited for the next seven weeks! ¡Hasta luego!