Tuesday, June 12, 2012


3,626, is the distance in miles, that separates Strasburg, Pennsylvania from Arroyo de la Encomienda, Spain. I cannot even begin to comprehend the distance between my two homes. I still am in shock, not just by the distance between my homes, but also the fact that I am leaving the states in just over 80 days. It hasn't quite hit me yet that all of this is actually happening, and so soon. Everything still feels surreal from simply being accepted to study abroad months ago, to having little details such as host family and placement, travel itinerary, and the complicated visa process.

Speaking of my host family...I could not be any more excited to have three siblings! Here at home, I only have one younger brother, and we are very close in age. I always wanted a sister, and I can happily say I will have two soon. Next year will be completely different having a sister the same age, and two drastically younger siblings as well. I am keeping in close contact with my host family, mainly through email. I occasionally chat with my host sister (via Tuenti), who has been very helpful. I also had the opportunity to skype with my host family a couple days ago. At first I was reluctant because I was so nervous, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The only problem was the language barrier between us; although that will surely change when I get to Spain!

Not a minute goes by without thinking what my future year will be like- full of smiles, tears, laughter, embarrassment, bliss, and pure confusion. There will be times where I don't want to go home and also times where I will just want to give up. One thing is certain though- studying abroad is my dream, and I want this more than anything. Next year would have still been a distant dream if it wasn't for the support of my friends and family.

Olivia- I couldn't thank you enough for all the support and encouragement you have given me in my decision to study abroad. I wish you would have had the chance to study in France like you wanted, but I know you will be there soon! I'm so happy that we became close friends this year, and I will never forget our weekly sleepovers! By the way, I absolutely can't wait to see you when our class visits Spain in March!

Mckenna- I still can't believe we're this good of friends, and you know why! I wouldn't change it for anything though. Thank you for all those times where we would speak Spanish and no one would understand us...even those little practicing sessions will help me out. I am so glad you were there with me to witness my freak out when I got my host family, because I wouldn't have anyone better to celebrate the moment with! I will see you in Spain (with your roommate Olivia), don't worry!

Erin- You have been my very best friend since the start of middle school, and that will never ever change. I know you were doubtful of my decision to study abroad at first, but I couldn't thank you enough for constantly sticking by my side. We have been through so much together, and you mean everything to me! Promise me that you will keep me updated and we will definitely skype often when I'm away!

Breakfast Club- Each and every one of you mean so much to me. I consider all of you to be my best friends, and you are the people I will be missing the very most when I'm abroad. I have never had a group of friends where everyone can act so weird together and think it's perfectly normal. We have been through so many ups and downs together throughout our entire high school career, but we always seem to make it and pull through! I can certainly say, there is never a dull moment in our group! I appreciate the support and confidence you all give me, even if it's through sarcasm and side comments. It's pretty amazing to say that we have been going out for breakfast every Friday morning for two years now. I am so blessed to have every one of you in my life, and I don't know what I would do without you!

Alec- As much as it kills me to admit, you are the best brother in the entire world! Of course we argue and disagree occasionally, but most of the time we don't..and I couldn't ask for anything better. Thank you so much for dealing with my Spain talk every single day, but more importantly- thank you for constantly reminding me how proud you are and what a great opportunity all of this is. I wish you the very best of luck during your first year of high school without me, but I know you will do just great. If you ever need help with Spanish homework, I'll only be a skype call away! Also, keep thinking hard about what we always talk about, maybe a year abroad is in your future too! I love you!

Mom & Mark- You are the two most important people in my life, and I couldn't have gone this far without you both. Thank you for realizing my dream is a once in a lifetime opportunity and letting me go for it. You truly do not understand how much that means to me. Thank you both for the full support and guidance you gave throughout the last year. Thank you mom, for the multiple phone calls during the day about random Spanish facts or more ideas for my going away party. Without either of you, I wouldn't be accomplishing my dream, and a simple 'thank you' will never gratify that.

Soon enough I will be at home, 3,626 miles away from home. I will be living my ultimate dream, thanks to everyone who made it possible in the first place! I love you all more than you can ever imagine.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

I have a family!

Yesterday was my last day of school here at Lampeter-Strasburg- my last day of American high school. I don't really know how I feel about that. Because yesterday was the last day of school, I was finishing up my third and fourth period finals and as soon as the bell dismissed us for summer, I checked my phone and I had an email. I exited out of the email and decided to save it for later, while I was reading my new text messages. Then I went to go look at the email and the subject line read "AFS: Your Permanent Host Family Placement with AFS-Spain". As soon as I saw that I started to freak out, I even started crying! My best friend and I decided to run all the way back upstairs to tell our Spanish teachers the great news. After many impatient minutes of waiting for an iPhone to load, I found out that I will be living in a medium-sized village two hours northwest of Madrid, called Arroyo de la Encomienda on the outskirts of Valladolid! My family consists of a mom (Nati), a dad (Antonio), and their three children- Laura (16, so she's nine months younger than me), Javier (10), and Iciar (4). I am very excited to have two sisters and a younger brother!

As soon as I found out this great news, I emailed my new host family a short email. It was definitely one of the weirdest feelings I've ever experienced. To my luck, they emailed me back just half an hour later! Although their English isn't the best, the email was so sincere; I can already tell I'm going to fit right in.

Then this morning, I woke up to two emails from my host dad, one with the corrected google map address of their condominium and the other was a pdf file with tons of new information and pictures about them. We have already sent a couple emails back and forth, and now I am awaiting a response!


Having a family and placement suddenly makes everything so much more real, but I have to constantly remind myself that my wonderful Spanish family in Valladolid will still be there in 90 days! just 90 more days.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Travel Information!

My mind can't seem to grasp the fact that I'm leaving in just three quick months. I remember this exact time last year; I was filling out my preliminary application and excited to work on my full application throughout the summer. I just can't seem to grasp that I've been counting down from exactly one year ago to today where my new life is just three months away. I only have two days left of school next week, both days focused on final exams. Then that's it..I have the rest of the summer to focus on my job and absolutely wonderful friends and family- because before I know it- they won't be so familiar anymore. This summer is going to be filled with just as many emotions as memories created. 

"late nights, bikinis, short shorts, flip flops, sunglasses, sunshine, loud music, pool parties, no makeup. the list goes on. SUMMER 2012 ♥"

On another note, I received my travel information today!
Late last night, I spent a good two or so hours skyping with a friend going to France in the fall, when I got an email from a local volunteer saying that I could count on specific flight details. I didn't really take the time to put everything together and I didn't really think much of the email at that point. Then later, to my luck, I just so happen to randomly wake up at 2am to a breezy cold room and an email blinking on my phone beside me. Thinking that there was a slight possibility it could be a host family placement, I opened the email as quick as I could..still half asleep. While it wasn't my placement, I did find out some other great news! I got my flight itinerary, which I wasn't even expecting until July! Here's a little insight on the excitement I was experiencing early this morning:

I found out that I have to be at the Hilton New York JFK Hotel anytime between 12pm-4pm on September 5th, 2012. That means I have to say good-bye to my family and friends that day, and to make things worse, that day happens to be my mother's birthday. Then, I have my gateway orientation that night and leave September 6th from JFK airport at 8:55pm and arrive in Zurich, Switzerland at 10:45am on September 7th. I have around a two hour layover in Zurich and at 12:25pm I fly to Madrid and arrive at 2:45pm!

I also was informed of our luggage requirements- we're allowed one checked bag up to 44 pounds with specific measurements too, along with one carry on weighing 22 pounds. It's crazy to think that I have to pack ten months into just 44 pounds..it seems close to impossible!

I've been trying to convince my parents to host an exchange student while I'm gone, whether it be as a temporary welcome family (for 6-12 weeks) or for an entire year. My mom seems to be fully on board with the idea, but it is a two way street. I feel that if my family provided another student with the same opportunity I was given, it would be the least we could do to "pay" back my scholarship. Also, it would be a great experience for my fourteen year old little brother. If my family hosted while I was gone, my brother especially, would overall be positively affected and would have someone to share his first year of high school with! I am strongly passionate about the whole idea, and crossing my fingers and hoping that my parents will agree!  (mom, if you're reading this- pretty please!?) 

Also, there hasn't been any news recently about my host family or placement. It seems that a lot of people have been getting placed recently though, and I really have a feeling I'm going to be soon! It's so hard waiting for the perfect family when everyone else seems to have their match already. As impatient as I am, I know for a fact that I'm going to get a great family and it will all be worth the wait in the end. I have to try my best to stay positive!

That's everything for now, but hopefully more major updates to follow!