I can’t believe it’s been almost 10 years since I participated in El Casal! I feel like my adventures in Spain somehow make their way into so many of my daily conversations with people now. I catch myself saying, «When I was in Spain during my gap year…» so often that you would think that I had spent a whole year there instead of just a few months.
I remember the amazing generosity of the locals we met along the Camino de Santiago; I remember the night a friend and I had to sleep on the side of the road near Montserrat because the hostels hadn’t yet opened for the season; and I remember our crazy attempt at recreating a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner at John and Ines’s home. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was the perfect break for me between a rigorous high school curriculum and a challenging college experience because it gave me the opportunity to slow down the pace and learn so much about myself and what drives me. I learned to be independent as I wandered the streets of Barcelona and volunteered in a clinic housing adults with cerebral palsy, but I always had an amazing support system in John and Inés and in my host family so I never felt completely alone.
I have been incredibly grateful for the experiences that El Casal granted me. I now just have to find a way to make it back to Spain to relive all of those amazing memories!
Emily W. | Phillips Andover Academy | Dartmouth College | Univ. of Pennsylvania
El Casal, 2004
Photo: Senivpetro | freepik.com