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A cup of coffee with the world

Rotary Traveler
Rachel Matheson
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

As an exchange student in Spain, I expected to learn and understand the Spanish language and culture. What has become an unexpected, yet wonderful, surprise is how much I’ve also learned about other parts of the world outside of San Sebastian and Glenwood Springs.

My daily schedule was already full with high school classes, sevillenas dance lessons, futbol training and being an active member in my Spanish family.

Unfortunately, the Spanish classes I knew I needed never quite fit with my schedule. Luckily, I found a unique opportunity at a language school nearby. For the first three weeks in October, I attended a Spanish class in the afternoon with nine other people and acted as the guinea pig for six young Spaniards in training to become language teachers.



What I loved so much about this class is the teachers didn’t know how to speak English and everyone in the class was from a different part of the world. It was easy to quickly become friends with my classmates because we all were in a foreign country and trying to learn a new language. Our ages ranged from my 16 to 48, and we all had different stories on how we traveled from our homes and ended up in San Sebastian, Spain.

We ended up going out for coffee after every class. My cup of coffee with the world quickly became the highlight of my day. Every trip to the coffee shop led to hours of sitting around the table and talking about Spain, school, friends, sports, politics, international relations, and every other imaginable topic.



It’s amazing to think that I had conversations over coffee with people from Germany, Australia, Kenya, Macedonia, London, Scotland, Taiwan, Korea and Switzerland on an everyday basis. Our only common thread of communication was a mix of beginner Spanish and even worse English, yet the language barrier never prevented us from expressing our opinions and knowledge.

The Spanish teachers occasionally joined us for coffee and were very interested in our diversity: They often created classwork for us based on sharing information about our countries. When I went to class I would learn medical terms in Spanish as well as the use of ginger in Kenya and the Korean practice of needle placement in the hand to cure the flu. I learned about the different sports in Switzerland and Macedonia and taught the class important dates in the United States history while practicing Spanish verbs in the past tense.

These are the moments that aren’t in the brochure. Two months ago I never would have imagined that a Spanish language class with nine strangers would become such a highlight of my experiences in October.

Every day I seem to have a new adventure and not only learn things about Spain, but the world. I understand that being an exchange student is a rare and unique opportunity, but a trip like mine is not necessary to talk with people from around the world. Most of these conversations could be had with visitors to Glenwood Springs in a local coffee shop downtown in one afternoon.

I want to encourage everyone to get out and become engaged in the whole world, wherever you are. I’m so proud to be in Spain representing Colorado and the United States.


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