As I reflect on my experience here in Ubrique, Spain I think about how much I have grown. The first day I came here, I walked down the main street to look for a supermarket and to explore my new home. The whole town was out having coffee, eating pastries, and chatting with friends and family. In my small pueblo of 17,000 inhabitants, I was extremely self-conscious. I remember how different I felt when I first came here not only because I could barely communicate in Spanish and because I am American but also because I am the only person of color in the town. I remember ALL EYES were on me and groups of people of all ages would stop their conversations to look at me as I walked by. Originally, I thought it was because of my skin complexion.
Shortly after meeting teachers and students at my school, I quickly began to feel integrated into the culture and feel like a true ubriqueña. One day, I built up the courage to tell a teacher that I didn't understand why people stared at me so much when I first arrived, but I was happy they didn't anymore. She quickly told me it was a misunderstanding and that people were looking at me because I was new to their town, and I was an outsider they hadn't recognized.
I have chosen to take advantage of the time I have here. I always have a busy schedule between giving private lessons, having pastries with the other auxiliares, drawing the landscape that surrounds my town, going to aerobics class and the gym, taking siestas, learning how to cook Spanish food with my teachers, and going out on the weekends with my new Spanish amigos. When I walk down the street, I think of how lucky I truly am to have all my students smiling, waving, and yelling "ERRRINNNNN, helloooo!"
Now every time someone asks me, "¿estás aqui sola?" I am quick to respond, "¡Por supuesto que no. Toda mi familia extendida está aqui!"
A lesson I have learned that I will never forget is: when you surround yourself with great people and get involved in community activities, you quickly learn how to live the life that you want to live, you become accepted by the community, and you began to become a vital part of the community. As my experience comes to an end, I realize that this experience is really what you choose to make out of it. This experience has opened my eyes to different cultures, and I realize how truly colorful the world is in terms of cultures, traditions, races, languages, etc. I now consider myself the 17001st inhabitant of Ubrique, Spain. I can now apply what I have learned about getting involved when I return back home to a new city and new part of the country, where I will have to learn to integrate into a new culture all over again.