2014 marks our 10th anniversary! We welcomed our first El Casal gap year students in February, 2004. Some of those “pioneers” have offered reflections on their experiences and we’ll be posting them here over the next few months.
I can't believe it's been almost 10 years since I participated in El Casal! I feel like my adventures in Spain somehow make their way into so many of my daily conversations with people now. I catch myself saying, "When I was in Spain during my gap year...." so often that you would think that I had spent a whole year there instead of just a few months. I remember the amazing generosity of the locals we met along the Camino de Santiago; I remember the night a friend and I had to sleep on the side of the road near Montserrat because the hostels hadn't yet opened for the season; and I remember our crazy attempt at recreating a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner at John and Ines's home. I didn't realize it at the time, but it was the perfect break for me between a rigorous high school curriculum and a challenging college experience because it gave me the opportunity to slow down the pace and learn so much about myself and what drives me. I learned to be independent as I wandered the streets of Barcelona and volunteered in a clinic housing adults with cerebral palsy, but I always had an amazing support system in John and Ines and in my host family so I never felt completely alone. I have been incredibly grateful for the experiences that El Casal granted me. I now just have to find a way to make it back to Spain to relive all of those amazing memories!
by Emily: Phillips Andover Academy; El Casal (2004); Dartmouth College; Univ. of Pennsylvania