First Three Weeks

As of today, I have been in Spain for 22 days and I am loving it! There have been ups and downs, but that is definitely expected, especially since it's still the first month of my exchange. If I am being completely honest, it still hasn't sunk in that I am living in Spain and I am not sure if it ever will sink in. At first, the days passed by really slowly and by my 4th day, I felt like I'd been living here forever, but now, the days pass so quickly. It doesn't seem like I've been in Spain for 22 days already! That's over three weeks, and now I am beginning to understand what the "oldies" mean when they say that time just flies by. "Oldies" is a term that Rotary exchange students use when we refer to the exchange students who have been here for months before us. For most students, the "oldies" would be Australians or most people from the southern hemisphere because their exchange year is January to January, not July/August to July.

The first week was filled with so many emotions and it was very overwhelming. I was happy to be in Spain, sad to leave everyone, and nervous for what lay ahead, but most of all, I was excited to finally start what most people call the best year of their lives.

A lot of things happened during my first week... I attended a Rotary dinner, did some back-to-school shopping, started school, tried a bunch of new foods, made some new friends, went shopping, etc. It was a whirlwind of activities, but looking back on it now, I am grateful that my family kept me so busy because it helped distract me from being so homesick.

My first day of school was very nerve-wracking, tiring and very different from what I would've experienced in the US. For starters, I wear a uniform to school and I absolutely love it. It makes getting ready for the day so much easier because I don't have to figure out what to wear everyday. Aside from the joy of getting to wear a uniform, I was very nervous because I didn't really know anyone at my school. Plus, the school's computer system didn't put my name on the class list, which made me really nervous because I wasn't sure wasn't sure if the school was going to allow me to stay. However, when Iñigo and I talked to the "Jefe de Estudios" (essentially the dean of 11th and 12th grade), she said it was no problem and that the school would get it figured out. However, that meant that when each teacher took attendance, my name wasn't on any of the lists, so I had to tell the teacher that I was an exchange student and that my name is Menolly. My name is hard for all the teachers to pronounce, therefore it would take about 10 minutes of each class with the other students trying to help the teacher figure out how to pronounce my name. When the teacher would get relatively close, we would agree with their pronunciation and continue with the class. For those of you that don't know, the school I am attending in Spain is called Colegio San Cernin and it is a private Catholic school, which is pretty much the opposite of my school in Minnesota. I have noticed a few differences, but it's not as different as I thought. One thing that is different is that at the beginning of class, some teachers say a little prayer (I think?) and others just start class. Also, in the lower grades, students have religion class, but in my grade we don't. Apparently, it is a tradition at San Cernin to attend mass during the first day of school (which I didn't know), so at one point during the day, the whole school (or pretty much the whole school) left the building, walked a couple of blocks and attended mass at a nearby church. This completely surprised me and made me a little nervous about how much the teachers would possibly factor religion into their classes. However, when I got home and asked Itziar about it, she said that it was a tradition and not something that happened everyday. I ended up making some friends during the first day, which surprised me because I thought that it would take longer. Even though my first day was very tiring, I managed to make chicken panini's for my family, which they liked a lot. I had to improvise on a lot of things, but the panini's turned out pretty well for my first time making them.

That following Saturday (September 9th) was Jaione's birthday so we all went to San Sebastian which is where her parents live. It seemed like a very pretty city, but it was down-pouring the whole time so I didn't to see much of the city's architecture. Jaione and Angel said that we will visit San Sebastian a lot, so I'll probably get to see it one day when it isn't pouring.

September 11th was the first time that I walked around the city alone. I wanted to go to El Corte Inglés, which is kind of like a Macy's except with a grocery store in the basement. Originally I was just going to buy some safety pins but I ended up being 2 patches for my blazer, thread and sewing needles as well. Even though I used Google Maps to find my way to El Corte Inglés, I still felt very accomplished because it was my first solo excursion in Pamplona.

September 15 to September 17th was the big Rotary Orientation in Madrid. All the exchange students from all over Spain were at this meeting and it was amazing to meet people from so many different places. In order to get to Madrid from Pamplona, we (the four exchange students in Pamplona) rode a bus which took about 5.5 hours. Needless to say, I was very happy to arrive in Madrid. One of my highlights from orientation was getting to finally meet everyone I had previously talked to through WhatsApp. Overall, orientation was very fun, with the exception of all the lectures.

On September 20th, my entire grade at school had a field trip. It was some sort of international sports day at the University of Navarra, so we all went to the University's sports center and tried out different sports. I participated in three different sports (yoga, climbing and pilates). Towards the end of the day, there was a demonstration of a Canadian sport called Kin-Ball which looked really fun. It's hard to explain but fairly simple to play.

September 23rd was a day of celebration in Zuasti. Everyone who lives in Zuasti gathered in the golf club and each table prepared their own paella, then socialized with other people. There were some little carnival rides for little kids and some bounce houses as well. I had invited Valentine (she's an exchange student from Belgium) to the party and then she slept over at my house.

September 24th marked exactly 21 days or 3 weeks since I had arrived in Spain!

Sunset and Moon outside my house

View at night from the back of my house

First Day of School 
Jaione's Birthday Present

Patches for my blazer

Sunset at Orientation

Exchange Students + Rotex

Building at Orientation 
Street in the old part of Pamplona

Ayuntamiento de Pamplona
Countdown clock to San Fermin

Plaza Del Castillo

Tasty Chocolate Pastries

My Room

Spanish Keyboard

Statue of Running of the Bulls

Cool Architecture

San Sebastian

Rock Climbing during the field trip



My blazer after Orientation

The view from my room