“Hola, Nicole, Me llamo Teresa,” these word said to me during my first encounter with a native Spaniard came out of the mouth of my new mother. I was in Segovia, Spain for the first time meeting my new madre for my nine week stay in the traditional to of the Castillia y Leon region. While on the plane ride to Segovia from Boston’s Logan Airport, I had contemplated this moment over in my head thousands of times. “How would my new host mother look, Would I give her a hug or Awkward handshake,
What would she think about me,” were all questions that I had constantly asked myself. Although I did attend Clark Academy, a boarding school five hours away from my home in New Jersey, I had never imagined being in a different country from my family. When I and the rest of the nine students joining me on this adventure in Segovia, Spain finally landed my emotions came rushing out of me like a gale of wind. I was a wreck of nervousness , anxiousness, panic, excitement along with a myriad of other ineffable feelings. However, above all else I knew that no matter how daunting a journey I was about to partake in, I had to rise to this challenge because in the end this tremendous risk would pay off.
Meeting my host mom at the Segovia train station had been one of the most exhilarating parts of the trip. Before arriving in Spain I knew a bit about the closeness of Spanish families and the friendliness and hospitality of the people and I hoped I would be able to experience this first hand. Soon after meeting my host mother Teresa, being taken to her apartment, on a busy street in Segovia and meeting her daughter Luisa, I was confident that I would be living with a wonderful family. I knew that having Maria Jesus as a host mother would make my nine week stay in Segovia much more enjoyable.
One of the most surprising things that I enjoyed most about Teresa was her sparse English vocabulary. Because Teresa did not speak much English I was forced to use my Spanish even more. Before arriving in Spain I had the facetious preconceived notion that almost everybody that I would meet would know English because it was should a popular and necessary language. I was shocked when Teresa told me she did not know English however, I grew to love this aspect of her. Living with Teresa’s family I gained the most authentic Spanish experience. Whenever Teresa and I had a situation where one did not know what the other was talking about, she pulled out her handy Spanish-English dictionary to resolve the miscommunication.
Although I did have a wonderful time living with Teresa, my whole stay was not full of “roses and lilies”, there were many obstacles that I had to overcome. One of the toughest challenges living with a Spanish family a six hour plane ride away was making sure not to become disconnected with my family in the United States. Spain and the United States seemed worlds apart at times so it became hard to not miss my friends and family across the Atlantic. With a couple of extremely different culture views it was difficult to be completely open-minded to some Spanish customs. When Teresa showed me how to unlock the front door of her apartment I was shocked with how tedious it was to open a single door. In fact the toilet, shower, and way of doing laundry were all completely different to me. These objects may seem simple and complacent however when acclimating to a new environment the longing for the slightest bit of familiarity is not strange.
Through my excursion to Segovia I learned that keeping balanced and level headed was one of the best traits I could have possessed. Although I wanted to absorb as much from my family’s Spanish culture, I also wanted to keep my American customs close to my heart, and share some of these traditions with my new family in Segovia. Teresa was the nicest person I met in Spain. After only a few days of staying with her she began to call me hija-the Spanish term for daughter. Having lived with her for nine weeks, Teresa became my madre. I know that I will always remember the warmth, accommodating and welcomeness she expressed to me and our interesting late night conversations over a tortilla con patatas.