Since my last post, I've started school at the beautiful CLIC (Monday through Friday, 9:15am-1:00pm), which is a twenty-five minute walk from my apartment, filled with breathtaking views of the Guadalquvir river. I knew that I would meet new people on this program. I knew that I would be studying at an international school. But if you had told me two weeks ago that I would already have friends from several different countries, I wouldn't have believed you. In my class of ten people at school, I'm the only American. Throughout the class I hear tidbits of German, English, Dutch, Japanese, French, and Mandarin being spoken, though we're all here to learn Spanish. I'm particularly inspired by an elderly Japanese man who sits near me. I often wonder what the place he calls home is like, how old his children are, how he ended up in Seville... but we can only communicate with gestures and smiles and occasional basic Spanish phrases. We're at such different places in our lives and yet we're here in the same room and both very far from home. I think this is one of the wonders of travel-- you meet people from cultures that you might not even acknowledge otherwise, out of either ignorance or egocentrism. I've fallen prey to both. The other day, I talked to my host sister, Lucia, about how culturally aware young people tend to be in Europe and how unaware young Americans tend to be. The teenagers in my class are all bilingual, some even trilingual, and all of them are fluent in English. In our defense, the rest of the world does tend to focus on America as the center of fashion, music, and food-- adopting much of it into their cultures. And so, because other countries try to think like Americans, we young Americans are stuck thinking mostly about ourselves. I wish that I'd been required to take a language throughout elementary and secondary school. I wish I had been taught more about other cultures. I wish we, as a new generation, had been taught how to respect other customs when traveling-- because most of the time we come across as loud, rude, and disrespectful-- and we are, because we don't know better. This year I've made it my mission to be as un-American as possible so that I can soak up Spanish culture for what it is. I'm stowing away my Nike shorts, love for sweet tea, and all of my preconceptions. I think that I'll get more out of this gap year if I'm less attached to where I come from and more open to change; something I wish I'd been at a younger age. Now, I'm sporting some fuzzy pink slippers (no bare-feet in Spain) and eating all the tapas I can get my hands on, which, okay, I would've done anyway.