All of the other kids were extremely welcoming and they were all so interesting. I quickly forgot about my nervous parents standing behind me waiting for me to say goodbye; luckily the Abbey Road staff was extremely comforting to my anxious parents. Once we headed for the plane I knew I was about to have one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. As soon as my exhausted traveler’s feet touched the ground of Cadiz, I fell in love. I say this like this is a rare occurrence, but it’s not; everyone falls in love with Cadiz! Who doesn’t want to live in such a historic, quaint, cultural town on the beautiful coast of Spain?
Our next challenge or shall I say little fear was our homestay family. While my roommate and I waited anxiously amongst all of the other kids to receive our homestay family we were convinced that this would play a pivotal factor in our time here and, determine whether it would be a good or bad experience, so we were hoping for a welcoming family. As the trip went on we found out that every family was extremely welcoming and loving because it’s Cadiz and everyone here is extremely hospitable; it sure was not New York anymore! Once my roommate and I gave Besos (kisses which are their customary greeting in Spain) to our homestay family we knew that we were at home.
My experience with my homestay family was like no other. I absolutely fell in love with them! It was my second home away from home! There were two kids around our age in the family and they welcomed us with open arms. They showed us around Cadiz and gave us a taste of their teen life in this majestic city. The parents were extremely interesting and acted as our real mother and father. We had in-depth conversations about the government, religion, culture, and even pop news with them. As a whole, we also had conversations where we were all laughing so hard that we could not breathe.
I always found this to be unbelievable because even though my roommate and I were not fluent in their language we were able to communicate with them and fully understand them. My fluency level in Spanish rose greatly because of the conversations with my homestay family; they were the ultimate teachers. Since I’ve been home I Skype with them at least once a week and my roommate and I are planning on visiting next summer! Not only did I have a great experience with the homestay aspects of the trip, but I also had an amazing experience with the Abbey Road group as well! I made such unbelievable friends on this trip and I talk to them every day since I have been home.
There were so many interesting and intuitive kids on the program that even talking for hours would never become boring. I loved meeting kids from all over the United States and learning about their lives in comparison to mine. Not only were the kids great, but the staff was also as well! They always kept a super close eye on us to make sure we were safe, but at the same time, they gave us the right amount of freedom to let us show our independence as young adults. I always felt safe and comfortable.
The staff didn’t just provide us with information and safety; we also had fun with them! I had great conversations with some of the staff members that I enjoyed a lot and I will never forget. Also, when we went on our excursions to other cities such as Conil and Arcos de la Frontera, we had fun with them on the beach, eating churros and gelato, and shopping. Additionally, in the classroom, they were great teachers! I loved my Spanish class and my elective class (digital photography).
The teachers were extremely helpful and I learned so much! I especially loved the learning environment. Instead of sitting in a hot stuffy classroom for hours, our teachers would have us experience Cadiz by having us go around La Plaza de Catedral and ask local Spaniard’s questions about their country or have us utilize our novel store vocabulary by buying a magazine in a local shop. Abbey Road also provided us with a myriad of fun activities everyday whether it be free time to walk around Playa Victoria, see a movie in Spanish, have some Chai tea at the local criteria (Arab tea house), or have the chance to experience a panoramic view of Cadiz from the top of the Cathedral.
No matter what, there was always something for us to do! There was never a dull moment. Even if Abbey Road had scheduled beach time and you did not want to bake in the sun for hours, you had the chance to go to a local café with some Abbey Road staff members and have culture and conversation in the native language. Abbey Road did a great job with making sure that we were all fully immersed in the Spanish culture and language that fills the breath-taking city of Cadiz.
There were always fun cultural activities set up for us, but there was also a fair amount of free time to go to the beach with our friends or grab a gelato on those hot Cadiz days! Abbey Road made me feel extremely comfortable in this foreign city and I could not have asked for better staff, friends, or a homestay. I absolutely loved everyone that I met on my trip and I wouldn’t trade my amazing experience in Cadiz for the world!
What drew you to the Cadiz Homestay program? What were you looking for?
I wanted to really soak up the culture of Spain, so I believed that actually living in Spain and with a homestay family was the best option. I also wanted to meet other kids and Abbey Road was a great tool in helping me achieve that. I [also] really wanted to immerse myself in another culture and truly learn about their different way of life. By going to Abbey Road I did just that. I had a few expectations going into [the program], but by the end… they were completely exceeded. I loved my homestay and am actually planning on visiting them next summer with my roommate from Abbey Road! I also left the program with amazing friends that I talk to almost every day.
What was the most unexpected thing you enjoyed about the Cadiz program? Did it live up to your expectations?
I really enjoyed the housing. I heard that Cadiz was hot and the houses very small, but I went with an open mind. The house I lived in was adorable and there were nights that we were freezing if the windows were left open. I told my mom that I would love to do another Abbey Road Program next summer. Before the summer, I was so immersed in my school year that I couldn’t wait for school to be over. When I got to Spain, I fell in love immediately with my roommate, my host family, and the other kids on the program, and of course Cadiz. …I loved every aspect of the program.
Tell me something you know now after doing this program, about the Spanish Culture, the city of Cadiz or the people of Cadiz that the typical traveler would not know.
Everyone in Cadiz is extremely friendly. Anyone would be pleased to answer your questions or open a door for you. They are a very hospitable people and are extremely affectionate. Their customary greeting involves two besos (kisses) on your cheeks; far different from our American handshake. The people native to Spain are also very liberal and do not get so stressed as easily. They do not work as much and have breaks in the middle of every workday called siesta. They do no make as much money, however, they are content with their lives and are very happy.
Who would you say is the “typical” teenager on this program?
The teens in Cadiz were all people I could be friends with. There was such a wide variety. Everyone had something interesting about them and we all wanted to learn and explore the city of Cadiz. They were good people. We were all different and yet we were all the same.
How valuable was your free time? How did your time management change from the first week to the end of the program?
I loved my free time! We would go to the beach during siesta even if it was just for 1 or 2 hours. We would get paella and go shopping or we would stay home with our host families and talk. In the beginning, my roommate and I went home during siesta and spent a lot of time resting and talking with our homestay family. As we got closer to the end of our trip we wanted to explore the city more and do as much as we could before our time was up in Cadiz.
How was it as a teenager to travel with professional teachers/instructors? Were they personable?
The staff was really nice and so much fun. They had their rules, but they gave us free time and reminded us to be cautious. One of my favorite places was the Teteria (Arab tea house) where we would go and have tea and great conversation with our teachers and friends. They were all so great and were able to explain and answer any questions that we had involving the Spanish culture. We were all able to connect with them on a friendship level as well as a teacher-student relationship.
Describe your Spanish class. How was it different than or similar to studying in school?
The Spanish class in Cadiz was unlike no other Spanish class that I have ever taken. In my Spanish class in New Jersey, we learned about the history of Spanish cultures and the geography of the countries. I was not so intrigued in this course because I wanted to learn information that was applicable to my everyday colloquial Spanish. However, in Spain, we learned vocabulary that benefited us for a normal day in Cadiz. We also learned about the culture, however, we were not sitting in a hot, stuffy classroom learning from textbooks.
When we talked about culture and vocabulary, we would actually venture into the streets of Cadiz and speak with the local Spaniards about their everyday lives. The rest of the class would be held outside on the Cathedral steps. It was a great learning environment and everyone was extremely intrigued because we did not feel forced to be there.
What was your elective class?
My elective was Digital Photography and it was great. We went to plazas and photographed flowers and people where we utilized the many techniques that we just learned. Most students in the class had the big professional Nikon cameras while three other students and I had a small Canon point and shoots. Of course our cameras were not able to perform as many functions as the professional cameras, however, our teacher made us feel very welcomed and took time to teach us the different aspects of our particular cameras. I got a great feel for photography.
Did anything change significantly about you during the month in Cadiz?
Boy did I change? At first, when I came home, I was speaking in Spanish and thinking in Spanish. I know my Spanish is a lot stronger now because I had to speak Spanish with my homestay family and I did most of the talking because my roommate was shy. I also feel that I became more independent. I never traveled without my parents in a foreign country. I had butterflies before I left and once I got to Spain I wanted to stay there forever. My host family provided me with a whole different view of the culture. I feel like Cadiz is my second home.
Do you feel the program met your expectations? Would you participate in another Abbey Road program or recommend it to a friend?
I loved every aspect of the program. I told my mom that I would love to do another Abbey Road Program next summer. Before the summer, I was so immersed in my school year that I couldn’t wait for school to be over. When I got to Spain, I fell in love immediately with my roommate, my host family, and the other kids on the program, and of course Cadiz. Yes, I would recommend this program.
What advice would you give to someone about to participate in this program?
I would tell kids to go with an open mind and do not go with a friend or family member. This experience is about finding yourself and becoming independent. If you have a security blanket such as a friend or sibling you won’t test yourself as much and you won’t learn as much about yourself and the culture. It is your time to go and make your own friends and your own experiences.