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Group Leader Reflection

It is day 7, and the LITA bus is parked outside the Eroski grocery store. We are waiting for the signal from Jordan that all the families are assembled and ready to receive their new American sons and daughters. All twelve students are dealing with their nerves in twelve wonderfully unique ways—from shouting and pacing, to a sudden onslaught of questions and concerns (“wait, what if my host mom makes me salmorejo the first night? Should I tell her I hate it?”), to sitting in intense silence at the back of the bus.

I am feeling a giddy mixture of pride, jealousy, and so much love for these remarkable students whom I have only known for a week, though it seems like so much more! We have clambered through caves and bathed in waterfalls, we have played ancient Iberian instruments and sung Beatles songs in a candlelit cellar. We have learned to shop for typical Spanish ingredients and cook paella.

The real accomplishment for me as a LITA leader, however, is the community of learning we have created together. I am so impressed by the students’ motivation to challenge their Spanish by sitting down next to our bus driver and striking up a conversation, by their patience for every level of speaker in the group, maintaining Spanish even though it would be much easier to say “pass the bread, please,” and their ability to be gracious and respectful to all of our wonderful guides and hosts even in their second language. 

Back on the bus, we get the signal from Jordan that it is time to meet the host families. It is this attention to detail that makes LITA so special. Jordan’s presence shows such support for both the students and their families, making sure every family is present so that no student is left waiting nervously in the parking lot. This “LITA difference” has been in every moment, even from the drive up to our first home in a quaint village of Castilla y León. This little town of about 50 people welcomed us at the perfect sleepy pace of our jet lag. The mayoress gave us a tour of the town to get our bearings, giving us free rein to find our own nooks to journal, exercise, and take pictures of the beautiful scenery. This timeless little community was the perfect introduction to life in Spain as we adjusted to the time difference and culture shock.

Compared to that first village, our small homestay pueblo seems overwhelmingly large, full of people of all different ages and accents, but we are ready! I know this next stage of immersion will be challenging in a whole new way. For some students the challenge will be their shyness. For some it will be adjusting to a different schedule and pace of life, for others, communicating what foods they like and do not like to eat. Whatever it is, I know these students will grow in ways they never knew they could and remember this experience for the rest of their lives. I am so excited to watch their experience continue to unfold!

Rachel Graber, Group Leader, 2018

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Please find our program dates for Summer 2019 below. Departure and arrival airport is JFK. To apply for a LITA program, please visit our Apply page:North Group 1: June 17th - July 23rd, 2019           ...