Diary of a Year in Spain

Among the students returning to Brooks for the new school year is one who says his time away has been "a gift."

Bostonian Nick Miller '19 spent nine months last year nearly 3,500 miles removed from campus in Zaragoza, Spain with School Year Abroad (SYA). He and Brooks' other 2017-2018 SYA scholar Axidi Iglesias '19 (who lived and studied in China) have returned with amazing experiences that they're happy to share. Read on for the second installment of a two-part series sharing details about each of the transformative trips — in their own words.

Miller (right) on a hike with friends in Ainza, Spain.

SEIZING THE DAY

I honestly felt as though it would have been wrong to not pursue this opportunity to study abroad. My thought process at the time was that, at its core, life is about knowledge gained through experiences, and while I'm alive I want to experience and learn the most that I can. Besides wanting to dive into the culture and way of life that Spain had to offer, I wanted to strengthen my Spanish through immersion and achieve, or at least come close to, fluency — a skill that I could carry with me for the rest of my life. Also, I wanted to really start learning, meeting new people and seeing new perspectives. To have had the opportunity to pursue this while in high school, is indescribable.

Friends joined Miller (right) on a tour of the stadium where soccer team Real Madrid plays.

DISCOVERING A SECOND HOME

I walked into the year completely blind. I had almost no idea what to expect, and for the first few months, I was lost. Initially, it was hard to adjust to the language, the food and the culture. I didn't expect to struggle as much as I did at first and that brought me down. But once my Spanish-speaking skills improved, it was like I found a second home. The SYA students had incredible freedom, as well, which was something I didn't expect.

Read fellow SYA explorer Axidi Iglesias's Diary of a Year in China.

A DAY IN THE LIFE

A typical school day would entail waking up at around 7 a.m. [in the home of my host family], riding my bike to school, and grabbing breakfast along the way. Most students took the bus, but my house was a bit farther away and the bus times were unpredictable.

With his host mother visiting the village where she grew up, Puente La Reina.

The school day itself was structured exactly like it is at Brooks, but with a few more breaks included. All of my classes were in Spanish, and speaking English was forbidden outside of my English and Math classes. School let out at around 4:30 p.m. each day.


Miller (second from right) hiked with friends in Extremadura.

There were no required extracurriculars after school, however, so we were able to get involved in many different things. I rowed, took a cooking class and learned how to play the guitar. After hanging out with friends in the city after school, I would ride my bike back home for dinner with my host family, which usually took place around 9:30 p.m. Shortly after that I would finish any homework I had left and head to bed.

Learn about Brooks School's Exchange program, offering students the opportunity to study in Botswana, Hungary, Morocco, Peru, Scotland and Spain.


Visiting a jamón production factory and farm in Extremadura.

SPREADING WINGS

The highlight for me had to be the traveling aspect of the year. On weekends, SYA students are allowed to travel independently with up to three friends wherever we wanted in Spain, or in Europe. I was able to visit every major city in Spain, as well as cities outside the country including Amsterdam and Paris. It was something I'll never forget!


Miller visited the town of Alquezar...


... and a natural pool in Tenerife.

OVERCOMING CHALLENGES

The language barrier was the hardest thing for me to overcome. My host family spoke no English so until I learned Spanish, I was living with strangers. Around the six-month mark, my language skills improved and I could understand and speak with just about anybody.

I ended up performing in two Spanish play productions, including one in front of an audience of more than 400 people! I also ended up working as an English tutor, and got paid to teach English to local children.

Skiing in Formigal, a small town in the Pyrenees Mountains.

NEW OUTLOOK

This year has been a gift. Through all the ups and downs, I can confidently say that the experience has exceeded my expectations two times over and then some. There is no way I know of to sufficiently show my gratitude to my friends, parents and teachers and thank them for everything that this year has given me.


Visiting Teide, the tallest mountain in Spain.

My sadness upon leaving was significant. I accomplished something in Spain, something raw, something special, ugly, beautiful, crazy and incredible. Moving on just brings me to the next step on a long road of hopefully positive and fulfilling experiences and discoveries. I feel like the world is opening up to me now, and I have an opportunity to enjoy all of it!

Follow Brooks School on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see the projects, trips and happenings in our community each day during the school year.

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