Aquest curs alguns dels nostres alumnes fan el curs a l'estranger. En Taylor, auxiliar de conversa a la nostra escola, els anirà entrevistant.

Martina Colom Bonjoch

If you want a truly authentic American experience look no further than the great state of Illinois, in the heartland of the U.S. where it's the land of Abraham Lincoln and home to the very first McDonald’s! Here in the shadow of the city of Chicago’s bright lights is where you’ll find Escola Pia Balmes student Martina Colom who is spending the year in this beautiful area that encapsulates American ideals and traditions. Let’s just say that living in Illinois is not a whole lot similar to the lifestyle of Barcelona. Martina went from palm trees and beach to flatter land with sprinkles of gorgeous valleys, bluffs, and even waterfalls. And so far…so good as Martina remembers, “my first impressions were of the people and the lifestyle that they live. In some ways it is so different from Spain, for example they go everywhere with a car, if you don’t have one you can’t do anything.” 

This is a shift that Martina easily got used to, and ultimately had to because she has a lot more time ahead of her in Illinoi territory. Whether it’s the plate for dinner or the people she interacts with, Martina has been incredibly thankful for her situation, “the people here are so nice, if I need help they will always help me. Here it is all bigger than Spain. The distances to travel, the holidays and how they celebrate, the houses, the high school but I’m very happy with all of it.” 

One thing that is massively important where Martina is based is sports. In Barcelona you have the opportunity to play and participate in sports a few times a week. But in the United States, it makes up most of your schedule so Martina knew immediately that it was something she needed to do to have the most complete experience. “The sports are so so so important! They have practice almost every day and they can go to college  thanks to the sports. It was weird for me because I didn’t practice any sport before so it was kind of stressful and hard for me to be part of a team at first. But it is by far the best way to make friends. This is more or less one of the things that most impressed me when I came.” 

Life in Illinois is something that takes time to get used to. It’s a very populated state, inspiration for the song Rockin the Suburbs by Ben Folds. Transitioning to this type of lifestyle isn’t easy. However, with a little courage and confidence, Martina began to thrive early on in this position as the newcomer. The first few weeks gave her a tough culture shock because “my high school is huge and I have to walk from one class to another. The first days I was completely lost…But I settled in because, for me,all the subjects here are much easier than in Spain…I really enjoy the American  classes, since they are very dynamic and funny, and I learn a lot and because of that I’m more interested in the classes that I care about!” 

As far as Martina’s routine in Barcelona? Yeah, that wasn’t going to work for Illinois and how they, “eat earlier. We get lunch at school at 11:30 and  dinner at 17:30, so it’s really strange for me! Also because I finish school at 15:00 when in Spain most of the time I finish at 17:00, so now I have more free time, and that's why I am doing sports and other clubs.” To say that Martina is embracing her experience is an understatement. She isn’t the sporty type of person but has put in an effort to work on her skills and meet new people at school. And for the new opportunities she’s given herself, the list is endless! “I have tried to do a new sport, I have tried new food, I visited and I will visit new places, I have met new amazing people, I have learned about another culture and a new language which I speak a lot better.” This is what new experiences are all about! And for Martina it has given her the chance to become the person she feels most comfortable with as she has “learned to be more open with the people and try to not be that shy!”

For Martina, it wasn’t the easiest decision to leave Barcelona and her friends at Escola Pia Balmes, however, she hasn’t looked back now that she is embracing “the freedom that we have here in the United States. I love the amazing people that you meet, the opportunity to live for a year with a new family and learn their culture and be part of it all. The chance that you have to mature and to face up to problems and learn how to solve them for yourself.”

It wouldn’t be easy for any of us to just start all over and begin a new life. Martina has opened herself up to these challenges and has grown because of it, that’s what Escola Pia Balmes looks for in every student and Martina is a great example of why taking these chances to travel are so beneficial to our students. On that note, she has also put herself in positions to meet other students who are also world travelers! Martina has joined “the international club with more exchange students so I can learn from them! I love to spend time with my host family and do stuff with them and hang out with new friends. We go to dances, football games, musicals and that is very typical here.”

If Martina has taken away one thing so far it’s that sometimes it’s okay to have just yourself to turn to. We sometimes might feel alone in our situations but that ultimately gives us the strength to become more independent, mature, and grateful for our situations. Illinois has a great representative of all that’s fantastic about Escola Pia Balmes, Barcelona, and the World!