Logo for: Rotary Old Saybrook

Caroline Bruno Talks About Her Time in Spain, Sept. 23, 2009

The following is a talk given to the club by Caroline Bruno who spent time in Spain under the Rotary Student Exchange Program.

This past summer I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Rotary Club’s short term exchange program. The Rotary club has a wonderful program of bringing countries and people together. Today I want to share the things that I experienced as part of this exchange. I began my adventure the day after my school ended by meeting Zaida, a sixteen year old girl from Madrid, Spain. She became part of my everyday life. And not only did I have the experience of meeting someone from a different country, but my friends took part as well. They were welcoming and interested in learning about her life. By the time Zaida and I were ready to head to Madrid, she had made many new friends. I also brought her to my family’s summer house in the mountains of New York where we spent a lot of one on one time together. This allowed us to interact in a very personal way where she became more comfortable. During this time we bonded over the creation of an animated horror movie “The Killer Bunny.” In addition to spending time with my family and friends, we were also able to do some sightseeing. We visited Newport and Providence. We went to New York City where she was able to see the statue of liberty and shop on Canal Street. On her last night, we had all of my friends over for a farewell cookout. She told us as she was leaving that young people in America were more open and kinder to strangers.

After a long plane ride and a difficult time change, we were welcomed in Madrid by Zaida’s family and boyfriend. The care they all showed helped me a lot through my first couple of days. At first everything was very challenging. My Spanish wasn’t as good as it could’ve been and I struggled at first to understand everyone around me. Even so, her brother and sister, though their English was limited, became close to me. This was especially meaningful because I don’t have younger siblings and we spent time together doing very average things to them, but to me they were special. I gained a new best friend, a sister, a brother, and a whole new set of parents. While I visited them, we spent a week in the Canary Islands with day trips to the capital and the volcano. Back on the mainland, we visited Segovia and Toledo. he architecture of these old European cities is so different than that of cities here.

Having this opportunity improved my ability to speak and understand Spanish and enhanced my understanding of other people and cultures. One of the big differences between Spain and here is the educational system. A student my age would have to already know exactly what field they planned to work in during his or her adult life. Another difference was life in a suburb as opposed to my life here in a small town. Zaida and I had some independence to go where we wanted to using public transportation without relying on adults. My experience in Spain increased my independence and maturity. Thank you for making this exchange possible.