I still remember my first day in Spain. After stumbling off the plane, meeting my host mom for the first time as she picked me up at the airport, sleeping for several hours (the time change hit me hard), devouring a scrumptious fish lunch, and attending a local festival, I could barely keep my eyes open.
Adapting to a new environment was difficult, but by my second day, I was able to handle my surroundings better and got to know my host family (my host dad is a genuine blacksmith ― how's that for a dream job!) and explore the area. My host brother showed me around the town I was staying in, Astillero, and introduced me to his friends. I was shocked to discover that Spanish bars were much different than American ones: children are allowed and bar food is phenomenal!
By the third day, while everything was still new, Spain felt like more of a home to me. I played a rotation as goalie in a local soccer match (and did surprisingly well, considering I blocked two shots and allowed none), jumped off a pier with my newfound friends (completely safe if you know where and where not to jump), and learned how to take the train from the suburbs of Astillero to the actual city of Santander (cheap and clean, much better than the D.C. Metro).
And, when orientation rolled around and classes started by day four, I felt confident in my new surroundings. After taking the city train into the heart of Santander, I met the other eight exchange students and our extremely bubbly program coordinator obsessed with Regma ice cream.