The other night, Emily, Grifin, Ian, and I were sitting at the top of the aqueduct and watching the city lights. Suddenly, Ian started to say something along the lines of, “Do you guys realize how cool this is? That we live here? That we’re sitting up here night now?” Thoughts like these had been stirring in the back of my mind for the past few weeks and I was happy to see that it had been in theirs, too.
We came to this realization that what we were doing was just insane. We talked about how even trying to explain our Segovia program to other people who don’t know our school is difficult, and that most people are shocked that we are able to even do this. I think that at Proctor, going off campus becomes normalized for us students. We hear about it all the time -- kids traveling and living in different countries, out of backpacks, on the ocean -- so it starts to not even phase us. We take it for granted sometimes because we forget that we are given this huge opportunity that we took a chance on.
Hiking and taking photos in the mountains of Valsaín, at the base of the Guadarrama mountains near Segovia.
Living in Spain and living with a host family just feels safe and comfortable and like everyday life for us now. It’s incredible to look back at how this transition has taken place -- I remember back when I felt the opposite of comfortable and normal here. I still remember feeling out of place and feeling scared. Going on this program is not exactly easy. In those first few weeks, you have to completely put yourself in a vulnerable position, live with strangers, talk in a foreign language, and adjust to a culture you probably have never experienced before. For me, though, the whole trip was a whirlwind of change and emotion and learning and growing. Never was there a dull moment. I’ve had my fare share of ups and downs, but I know that every one of them has richened my experience here. In Sevilla, I took some time to reflect on how much I’ve changed while I’ve been here. I’ve changed more than I could have ever expected.
I remember about a year ago, when I was putting in my application for Spain, I saw a quote a student had written on the Proctor en Segovia page. It said something similar to “Nothing I expected, and everything I needed.” I was so intrigued by this. What did this mean? How could Spain change you like that? After I read it, it stuck in my mind, and just the other day it suddenly came back to the surface. If I hadn’t gone to study abroad in Segovia, I wouldn’t be who I am now and where I am now. I didn’t expect this much of an impact to be made on me. I understand this quote now in a way that I can’t quite put into words. Although our time here is coming to an end and we must say goodbye to our friends, my family, and our city, I will always be grateful for the experience we have shared together. I will never forget what I have here in Spain and what I am leaving behind.
~ Rose Fore
Trying "potaje carnavalero," a traditional Segovian Carnaval soup, in the Plaza Mayor.
I applied to Proctor en Segovia with a slight amount of apprehension, worried about the prospect of living away from home for two months in an unfamiliar country. Now, two months later, I found that not only did I live, I thrived, enjoyed and loved every minute of it. I did find a sense of strength and independence in myself I never expected, the ability to be lost in a new place and maintain calm, interact with a new family, live within a small group and find my own way. But some of that independence has also been gaining the wisdom to work with and depend on a group. I wanted to come here, find that key to be able to do it all, and now, I know that it does not, nor will it ever, work like that. Of course, it took me a large part of these last two months to learn that it is a good thing to rely on people, not a sign of weakness. I have always struggled with depending on people, reaching out for help. It is something I have spent much time working on at Proctor, through the many extra helps and constantly available teachers, but I always had reservations about it.
Photography excursion to host mom Juana's pueblo, her hometown of Vegas de Matute.
But here, help was all around and I had no choice but to take it. My first day, my host mom insisted on lugging my suitcase up each stair of the apartment, one at a time, while all I could do was mumble a quick “gracias” through my jet-lagged haze and fall into my bed for a quick nap before orientation. At every single one of those first few meals, where I stumbled through my Spanish, working to understand everything they said, my host family gracefully guided me through my transition, not expecting and sometimes even discouraging any acknowledgement of thanks. Hospitality and help are second nature to Segovians, and the Spanish in general, both asking for and giving.
This trip has not only taught me to be ready for help, and to ask for it, it has also taught me to be more appreciative of it. Whether it be a small deed when I’m in the middle of culture-shock and jet lag, or passing English and Spanish homework across the table with my host brother, I am more aware and thankful of everything my host family and Spaniards have done for me in general. I know that this trip has changed me, and I am proud of these changes, now I can only hope that I will return home to further grow and develop with this new wisdom.
~ Linnea Saunders
Making Carnaval masks at the Centro Cultural de San José
The first thing my host family said to me when Olga brought me home, which I thought was very cliche, “Mi casa es tuya.” But they meant it. The first thing that caught me off guard when I met Olga was how fast she talks. I had never actually talked to a real Spanish speaker until then, and it frightened me. I couldn’t get anything out other than a “sí” here and there. All of a sudden I just couldn’t think of anything to say because I was thinking too hard. I finally managed to get out, “Yo no sé.” As I started to settle in and my Spanish got a few days to warm up, we really started to be able to communicate. Of course my Spanish is far from perfect, so Olga does a good job of correcting me. One time at dinner she asked me if I wanted any more food, and, not knowing the precise definition I said, “un poquito más.” She gave me one noodle and asked if I wanted any more.
~ Grifin Marshall
The door slams behind me as I walk out of Juana’s house and cross the street. The cars stop effortlessly when shifted into higher gears and I cross the next street. I climb each step to the parking lot which leads to the fields and up into the fields I go, the sun making me squint my eyes and the wind blowing open my jacket. I choose my path, not knowing exactly where it will take me. The bluebird day and fresh air push me along in my journey, filling me with warmth and freedom. Excitement and energy course through me as I take my first steps, my first risks, in this adventure. My walk is long. I discover the city through different perspectives, gaining knowledge and meeting people along the way.
I view the city from the eyes of the mountains, far off and distorted. As unknown as a different planet, I look from afar. I walk, hesitantly at first, and then I build courage. I walk alone and look behind me, all around me, unsure of my safety in the unknown. The fields pass by me and my perspective changes. I look to my right and see one arch of the aqueduct, insignificant from this distance, miniscule. The Cathedral towers over everything, unfaltering, the mighty skyscraper. The monumental towers of God. I keep walking, dipping down and losing sight of everything, everything but the mighty skyscraper. It is my landmark. My lighthouse. My known. I travel further. Viewing the aqueduct straight on, I see its power. The sheer strength that was used to build it, the immense importance it has in the history of the city. I pass an old couple walking with canes and summon the courage to say “buenos días”. I walk onwards. Over hills, through fields, on paths and on roads. I walk for two months, gaining strength and courage along the way. I see the cathedral directly to my right, its immensity overwhelming. I continue on and am at a crossroads. I can walk down the paved road to the street I know well or continue on through the fields, through to the unknown…
I passed the crossroads weeks ago. I went into the unknown and it became the known. I tried every food, spoke every word, and most of all, took it all in. I embraced a new culture and a new family. Juana became my family and her love encompassed me in my journey. I have not just visited Spain, it has become my home. A home I can return to. A home I will return to. My time was short but full, full of new experiences and different feelings. And now, sitting on the cliffs, I have seen the city from every perspective. I watch the sun go down over the castle, its last light brushing over the bell towers of the cathedral and look back at the trail I took to arrive here.
~ Caroline Ellis
Proctor en Segovia Winter 2017