My name is Sarah Williams, I’m 16 years old and a TY student from Dublin. Before entering into TY I knew I had one solid goal in mind, one thing I knew I had to do to make the year worthwhile was to go to Spain to learn Spanish. I arrived in Valencia on the 26th of February for a stay of three months with an open mind and a hunger for the Spanish language and culture.
From the day I arrived, each moment was unpredictable and my expectations of the three months ahead of me were ever changing. I was lucky enough to be welcomed by the most kind and loving family; Vincent and Maribel and their two children Sara and Samuel. Their happiness and excitement to show me the way that they live and introduce me to the Spanish culture is heartwarming. It’s lovely to get to be a part of their regular activities, like watching a movie, going to Samuel’s football games or feasting on gorgeous paella each Sunday. I am so thankful for each time they take a moment to explain a word or phrase for me that I don’t understand, every small thing enhances my learning experience.
Going to a Spanish school is something I could never have imagined; it’s such a radical change to every aspect of high school life that I was used to. It went from being all girls to a mixed, strictly uniformed to non uniformed, and from English to Spanish. It was the first time I had ever been to a new school, having been in mine from 3 years old right up until now. Every day I go is new and exciting, messy and liberal, I struggle to keep my grasp on the sheer pace and fluidity of it all. I was introduced to their own language of Valencia; Valenciano. A dying language utilized socially only by some of the older generation, mandatory in all schools in Valencia, much to the distain of the majority of students, It is practically the same as our relationship with our native Irish, which both a surprise and a comfort to find such a familiarity in a different part of the world.
Before I came to Valencia, I had no idea I was coming at the perfect time of the year; Fallas. A four day long festival that includes the admiring and burning of huge, beautiful hand built sculptures, fireworks, chocolate and churros and dressing in the typical Valencian dresses ‘falleras’. I was lucky enough to get to try one on one and experience Fallas as a typical girl my age would in Valencia.
I still have another month in my stay here in Spain, but I can already say that this has been one of the best learning experiences; growing in my independence, confidence and getting a taste for what the rest of the world has in store for me (not to mention the dictionary of Spanish I now have that grows day by day).