I probably should have given you this warning in the very first post. Every study abroad experience is different, whether it´s the location, duration, or program. My time in Ávila might be different from your future trip to China, Norway, or even another city in Spain. You might love your teachers or you might hate them. You might have a María for a host mom, or you might end up with someone who never talks to you or who cooks all your least favorite foods. No trip is perfect, and you never know what´s going to happen, but isn´t that part of the magic? Isn´t that why people study abroad, to experience something completely different from everything they know? I was going to save this rant for the end, as part of a reflection blog, but it just can´t wait. I am about to tell you the worse part of my trip to Spain, the thing that could quite possibly ruin my amazing experience here in Ávila. Are you ready for this? The only (read it: ONLY) thing I could possibly complain about here in Spain is…other people complaining. Yes, you read that correctly. As ironic (and hypocritical) as it sounds, I´m complaining about other people´s complaints. I get it: I tend to see the world through rose-colored gafas. Okay, that´s an understatement. They´re more like hot pink, glittery glasses with Hello Kitty-shaped lenses. And I understand: Many of the students have had legitimate complaints. Some have host families who smoke constantly in the living room. Others have had troubles maintaining their vegetarian diets while here. Six people on this trip missed their flight from Atlanta to Madrid, so they had to arrive a day later than everyone else. But others have not had good reasons to complain (in my humble opinion). One person complained that her host family served her the same food every day (this one was made on our second day in Spain). Another complained that we walk too much here (but didn´t one of our emails say beforehand that we´ll be walking anywhere from 6 to 10 miles daily?). One even had the nerve to gripe about a hotel employee who spoke to us in English when she said she was here to learn Spanish. This would have been a legitimate complaint had it not been for the fact that she and the others had been speaking English to each other the whole weekend. We had given the people of Madrid no reason to think we knew any Spanish. I guess the reason that these complaints bother me so much is because this is my first time in Spain. I´m here to enjoy and experience everything: the food, landscape, people, language, and culture. I get to spend six weeks in a beautiful country surrounded by new people and new food, learning more about one of my favorite subjects. What could I possibly complain about? I can miss American food and customs all I want, but I´ll have those again in 3 1/2 weeks. There´s a chance I might never be able to come back to Spain, so I´m determined to make this the most positive and rewarding experience possible. And here´s the thing that the naysayers need to keep in mind: When you go to a new country, things are going to be different. You´ll discover that the people there greet each other, say things, shop, travel, prepare food, and think differently than you might. It sounds obvious, but I think some people are losing sight of that. Did they honestly think that they were spending a month and a half in another country just like theirs, in a house just like theirs, with a family just like theirs? Even if you don´t know how things will be different when you study abroad, you at least need to acknowledge that they will be. You get out of this trip what you put into it. If you come here and never leave your room, you won´t meet new people. If you only eat at the McDonald´s here, you´ll never try new food. If you speak English the whole time, you won´t learn Spanish. I´m not saying that this trip is a lemon and you need to turn it into lemonade. I´m saying this trip is the lemonade, the most amazing pitcher that only a few people in this world will ever be able to try, but you only have enough for six weeks. So you need to ask yourself: When you drink it, are you going to taste the sugar or the lemons?

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