It is hard to believe I have officially been in Spain for a month now! Part of me feels like I have only been here one day, but at the same time, I feel like I have lived here my entire life.
The pastor of the international Baptist Church I am attending in Madrid sent us an email last night with a fact that shocked me—We will be one-sixth finished with 2016 at the end of this week! How in the world is that possible? I thought 2016 just started! It has made me realize how many more things I would like to accomplish this year as well as many blessings I often overlook.
There is always a silver lining
I gave my first presentation in Spanish this week. I was the first in the class to present, so I was a little nervous. Some of the students are essentially fluent and could speak for hours without needing notes. My Spanish is getting better, but I still needed to practice and have notes for my presentation. The presentation went well and everyone in the class said they could understand me.
My professor smiled and said we would have plenty of time to work on my “American accent.” To be honest, I was a little disappointed. I thought I at least had a slight Latin American Spanish accent after spending 5-weeks studying abroad in Costa Rica this summer.
The next day in one of my business classes taught in English, I raised my hand to answer the teacher’s question. As soon as I opened my mouth to speak, the entire class started speaking excitedly. Apparently all of the Spanish students love a southern American accent. While I need to work on my American accent in my Spanish classes, at least I am the most popular student in that business class!
Find what you’re passionate about and still learn the rest
At USC, I never seem to have enough time to take a step back and think about what I am learning. I am often so focused on actually learning the material, I never think about whether I actually enjoy the material.
After seeing some of my Finance professors become extremely excited when talking about IPOs, literally jumping from one side of the board to the other, I realized I am not that passionate about finance. I like finance, but I truly enjoy international business.
I have spoken with several adults in Spain who have told me their job is what they do to pay the bills for their family. They are not excited or even interested in what they are doing. I do not want a job that will take up the majority of my life to just be “something I do”. I want my job to be something I am passionate about, so that each day I go into work, I will be motivated to continually do my best.
Stand up for what your believe is right
Most of Spain is “Catholic,” meaning that most families go to church for Christmas and maybe Easter and then have Catholic traditions in their weddings and baptismal. When I mentioned I was an evangelical Christian to one adult, I got an extremely weird look and was asked if I was a Jehovah’s Witness. When I replied I was Baptist, they immediately changed the subject.
I did not realize active Christians were so rare in Spain. When I go to church with members from over 40 different countries, it does not feel at all like we are in the minority. It is easy to praise God when you are in church with everyone who agrees with you, but it can be difficult to praise, or even talk about God, outside of church.
I have learned that if you truly believe in something, you should have the backbone to stand up for it in any situation and in front of anyone.
Growing up never stops and sometimes it hurts
In Spain, many children live with their parents until their mid-30s or until they get married. One of the Spanish students in my class is coming to USC to study abroad next year. His first question was where he should live because he did not want to live in a dorm room with another student.
I remember how nervous I was living with someone else who was not one of my parents for the first time, but it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. I grew up last year…and I still am now. Yes, the transition hurt, but the growth was well worth the pain. It is better to learn to be independent early rather than waiting until later in life when you are too scared to try.
Don’t waste today
Since I have been here, I have heard “When will you ever have this opportunity again?” probably 100 times. I agree with the statement completely and have been trying to make the most out of everyday (which is probably why I am sick since I have not been taking enough time to rest).
I realized I should be asking myself this same question every single day of my life whether I am living in Madrid, Spain, Columbia, SC, or Kernersville, NC. Each day is a new opportunity to experience something new or make a positive impact on someone else’s life.
Appreciate everyone in your life
When you are half way around the world from the rest of your family, you realize how sweet the little things are. Like getting Valentine’s Day cards mailed to you or being emailed a funny picture when you are disappointed you will not see snow while your aunt in Tennessee is stuck under several feet of snow.
I am so appreciative of my host family who have let me become a part of their family; I am so thankful for wonderful church families both at home and abroad who are constantly praying for me; I am so thankful for friends who make me smile and laugh and are here to help me whenever I need it.
Always make time for God: The time of rest and reflection refuels you
My days are extremely long. I get up around 7:30am, leave the house around 8:20pm, take the metro to school, have class from 9am until 8:30pm, take the metro back home and get back around 9:10pm, eat dinner at 9:30pm, shower, work on homework, go to bed, and then wake up the next morning to start all over again.
Look at that sentence…and that’s just one day! There is no way I could continuously do that on my own without getting some “spiritual fuel.” On my 40-minute metro ride home I have started reading my Bible App, when I have a spare minute between class, I will sit down and pray or thank God for the opportunities I have today, and at night I can curl up in bed and read my devotional.
God can give you supernatural strength if you let Him!
Enjoy the routine and the crazy parts of life
Ecclesiastes 3 King James Version (KJV)
“1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”
Whatever you are currently experiencing in life, God has put you there for a reason! Take the time to figure out why.
And most importantly, have joy!
…and as always, never give up!