BY SAKURA YONEYAMA
It is currently mid-December, and the shops and seasons are slowly changing and morphing into the traditional festive red and green colors. I find it so utterly and amazingly crazy that I will be spending my first Christmas, here, in Madrid. And on top of that, during a pandemic.
I moved to Spain at the end of September. On my last day in New York, with tear-filled eyes and a runny nose, I said goodbye to my best friends and left them standing, crying at the entrance of a Marriott Hotel.
On my first night in Madrid, my family and I went to a Japanese restaurant, and we all had ramen and gyoza. It was strange, talking and hearing people around me speak a completely different language than English. Eating my comfort food in a completely foreign country and restaurant just didn't seem right to me.
After I arrived in Madrid, I was quickly thrown into the routine of going to school, coming home, doing homework, sleeping, then repeating the same cycle. I didn't have time to mourn the loss of some of the best people I have ever met, and the scrapbook they had gifted me was somewhere in a storage warehouse, waiting to be shipped off to a new continent.
On my first day of school, I was fortunate enough to meet some amazing people and quickly make friends. But I still stayed up late at night, listening to Folklore by Taylor Swift and songs that reminded me of my years in New York. I loved Madrid and the bustle of the city, but I experienced a great deal of unexpected culture shock. Prior to my move, I researched Madrid and the city experience and was fairly certain that my new life in Madrid would be something I could easily be accustomed to. However, actually arriving at the place itself and living in it is a completely different experience.
One of the biggest challenges was, and still is, the language barrier. Although I did take Spanish for two years in New York, I still could not hold a steady conversation in Spanish. My first time at a bakery, the store clerk asked me what I wanted, and I completely blanked. The first time I was able to order something at a grocery store successfully, I felt so accomplished, and I remember telling my new friends excitedly. Now, I am more skilled at speaking Spanish, but there are still times when I struggle to answer a simple question, especially when I am put on the spot.
However, simultaneously, this challenge has also become fun for me. I love learning new languages, and this environment has greatly accelerated my Spanish skills. From my friends, I have been able to learn slang and common expressions that have helped me realize that the Spanish language, like any other language, isn't just about conjugation and classes. The language is a part of the cultural fabric that is Spain, and in order for me to enjoy my time here, I must embrace it.
Although it has already been a few months since my move, I am still learning to fully adjust to life. My new apartment is very different from my two-story house and yard in New York. The school environment is also completely different, and I am still adjusting to a new home and school schedule. Despite these adjustments, I am happy. I love my new friends and Spanish food, and the city. And I realize that these new experiences become a part of me and my very own culture.