My Exchange in Spain

Author: Claire Cunningham

One of the most incredible moments that I experienced when I was living in Huelva, Spain happened on the very first day I went out into the city, and ended up completely changing how I would remember my time in Spain. My mom, my dad and myself had just came back from the University of Huelva after getting all my papers signed, finding out where my classes would be and what materials I would need. We got off of the bus heading back into the center of the city and decided we needed a well-deserved cervesa (beer). We stumbled upon a little bar hidden in some big beautiful purple flowered trees, in a small cottage looking restaurant and sat down to happy hour. My dad and myself had previous experience in speaking Spanish and had being forcing ourselves to practice as much as we could, however it had been a long day of checking off the to-do list, so we comfortably talked in English to relax.

About 30 minutes into our conversation, we heard a voice call out from behind us in English, “Where are you from?” When we turned around, it was a woman, her daughter and what we thought at first was her husband. Shocked to have heard an English voice after navigating the Andalusian dialect all day, our ears perked up right away and we all turned our chairs to start talking to her. Her eyes absolutely lit up when we said we were from Canada and immediately asked so many questions about snow, bears, hockey and other typical Canadian questions that one would think to ask. Her English was very good, and it ended up being that she was a kindergarten teacher in the city and was having lunch with a colleague of hers.

Delighted to hear that I loved kids and was really interested in learning Spanish, she introduced me to her daughter who was only a few years younger than me and she was in the midst of learning English and French. The afternoon flew by as we pulled our tables together and talked for hours and hours. She thought it was incredible that I decided to move all the way across the country to study and travel, and if I ever needed any help at all that I should contact her. She explained that if her daughter was across the world doing the same thing, which she hopes she does now after meeting me, that she would want the locals to offer the same help. We exchanged names and numbers and as we walked away from the simple little happy hour, I never felt so comfortable so far away from home, it was the warmest feeling.

Needless to say, throughout the six months of my life abroad, they became my Spanish family, completely by accident. She taught me the language, I taught her more English, she showed me how to cook Paella, toured me around the city, showed me the small hidden gems, celebrated my birthday with me, even convinced my parents to fly back to Spain to spend time with them again. It was heartbreaking to leave that little family but they are forever in my heart now and I am so thankful we stumbled upon that tiny little cottage bar.

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