What it means to be Jennie Hartstein and living in Spain. (Unless of course, there's another Jennie Hartstein living in Spain.. I can't speak for her, but here's life from my perspective. :])
Wow. Three months- That’s about how long I’ve been in Spain. Most days it feels like I’ve been here three weeks, which is actually just the short amount of time I have left in this beautiful, eye-opening, and powerful experience. I realize that I haven’t exactly taken the time to write about my experiences, so I think that now is the time to do just that. :)
So many factors have strongly impacted my experience abroad, but there’s about five things that really come to mind when I think about what has shaped my time in Spain: my kindergarten class, my dance classes, bible study, my family, and group excursions. I guess it only makes sense to write about these things first. :)
My kindergarten class: For a little over a month now, I’ve spent every afternoon experiencing both the joys and challenges of what it looks like to be in an elementary school in Spain. The atmosphere is a lot more informal than schools in the U.S, and by “a lot more informal,” I mean that there have been times when my students are, and I mean this literally, bouncing off the walls. The teacher in my classroom is absolutely phenomenal, and she has shown me how to have patience with even the most difficult of students. She has taught me to search out those students’ strengths, and, rather than belittling what they are not, to encourage the growth in what they are. I really enjoy the hands-on learning that takes place here, and definitely hope to implement this in my own classroom some day. I look forward to my daily dose of hugs, playing tag in gym class, and of course, singing along to children's songs (Think 'Father Abraham', but in Spanish.) The drawings my kindergartner's create for me will be my favorite material-possessions I bring home from Spain, and I will miss their enthusiasm and joy.
My dance classes: Dance has always been an extremely important part of my life, so I knew even before coming to Spain that I wanted to somehow get involved in dance in Oviedo, whether through a flamenco club or, preferably, at a dance studio where I could continue doing ballet. And that is just what I found! :) About three minutes from my house, there is a darling little dance studio where I spend about five hours a week. The girls in my class are mostly 16-17, which makes it a blast to talk to them. I love hearing what Spanish high schools are like, and they have all been incredibly warm and welcoming. They are always quick to step in and help when I don’t understand what our instructor (who is super patient!) is saying, and I’m extremely grateful to have met these wonderful ladies. We also bond over our mutual love of Justin Bieber and One Direction, so that's a plus, too.
My host family: Oh, man. Where do I even begin?? I’m sure my host family wasn't expecting to get the world’s pickiest eater, or have a student that can’t still long enough to watch tv with them and instead is always running from one activity to another. However, despite all of my quirks (and, as I’m sure you know, there’s a lot of them), they have literally never been anything but kind to me this entire semester. From taking me on vacation the first week here, to the cups of tea I have every night after dinner with mama, I truly cherish their hospitality, warmth, their sheer joy for life, and, of course, our always-present laughter. (Also, I am grateful that my brother speaks English.. I try to only talk in Spanish, but let's be real-- that was extremely helpful the first few weeks here!!)
Bible Study: I am so incredibly grateful for the campus bible study I have been able to attend every week while in Oviedo. Though a small group, having between eight and sixteen of us depending on the day, I really enjoy my time reading God’s word with such warm and welcoming Christians from several different places. (Though many are Spanish-speaking, a lot of the people are not necessarily Spaniards, instead having lived in Brazil, Peru, or other countries.) I have really enjoyed seeing God’s light in a country far from my own, and it has definitely helped me gain a new understanding of just how big and powerful the gospel really is.
Excursions: My class has spent a good amount of time on excursions, whether going somewhere for an afternoon or traveling for the entire weekend. I always really enjoy these trips, when the whole group gets to be together. There are eighteen students in my group from Calvin, and I truly believe that our trip would not have been the same without every single person here. I think God hand-picks these kind of things, and I have really enjoyed getting to know each person, and seeing how every one's unique strengths bring joy and diversity to our group. I am reminded of the mosaics we saw in Park Güell in Barcelona. Each piece being different, yet coming together to create something whole, is absolutely beautiful. I will miss being together when our semester is over, and I hope that I have brought at least a little bit to my classmates of what they have brought to me. I deem us the "Best group in all of Europe!"
So, too sum it all up, I could not have asked for a better semester abroad. Yes, there have been challenges. (Think getting lost in a foreign country and not understanding anyone’s attempt at explaining directions.. multiple times), adjusting to different customs (dinner at 10 p.m.), and missing friends and family (love you guys!), but for every thing that has challenged me, there has been an equally grand, if not grander, blessing. God has taught me so much on this journey, and I look forward to see what He has in store for these last few weeks.
So with that I say- live, adventure, travel, bless & don’t be sorry.
Peace & love, always.