Earlier this year, Nina, a former student of Coffee Shop Spanish, was admitted to the Auxiliares de Conversación program in Spain. She arrived in the beautiful Andalusian town of Granada in late September, 2016 and has graciously offered to take us with her by way of regular guest posts during her year-long journey.
Below, you can read about her experience as an American in Spain after the 2016 presidential election.
What a whirlwind the last two weeks have been. Watching the election happen when you live overseas is an experience like none other, and it’s not for the faint of heart. Dealing with the aftermath of this particular election as you interact with those you live and work with is perhaps even more unique.
The night of November 8th, I found myself holed up in my piso (apartment). I don’t remember the weather, but I swear it was pouring rain and miserable outside. Or at least that’s how I felt. The TV stations here were showing election coverage, but it was only intermittent and of course it was in Spanish. And while I have a fairly high level of Spanish at this point, I just wanted to watch my country’s election in my language. I was a nervous wreck, after all. So I took my phone into my bedroom and watched it until about 1 a.m. Spanish time, at which point I needed some sleep. Spanish bosses were likely to be a little less forgiving the next morning and it was a Tuesday; something a Spaniard would later comment on. (“Why Tuesday of all days for your election?”)
When I woke up the next morning, it was close but not decided when I met the teachers I carpool to work with. I had gotten about three hours of sleep and they were not surprised. I had to explain to them the electoral college process in Spanish and so many other things. And then the announcement came. I was scared and so were they.
“El presidente de Los Estates Unidos es como el presidente de todo el mundo,” said one of the teachers I work with (the president of the United States is like the president of the whole world). I had joked about not moving back home for four years and, right then, it seemed like a more real sentiment than ever. I had not supported Trump throughout the election process and was not expecting things to turn out the way they had. I was down and droopy for the rest of the day, and several of the teachers I work with commented on my demeanor.
As with everything, though, life continued.
What I found interesting in the ensuing days, though, was the response I got from Spaniards and how challenging it was to respond from a linguistic point of view. Spaniards seemed to know more about our elections than we do about theirs. I got questions like “¿qué piensas?” (what do you think?) over the proceeding weeks. Trying to articulate your thoughts on a complex topic in your second language is quite challenging. Regardless, it’s times like these when you’re forced to improve your Spanish, whether you like it or not.
The thing that frustrated and still frustrates me is how this whole election has given the rest of the world a bad image of America. I had to explain to a girl I shared a BlaBlaCar with (a ride sharing service here in Europe you can use to travel between cities) that “no, not half of my country is racist.” I told her that half of my country didn’t even vote in the first place. She seemed surprised when I corrected her on that.
Bottom line, the America as seen by the rest of the world through the recent election coverage is not the America I know. I just want people to know that while some of the people in my country are racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic, so many are not. I would love to introduce them to people like my best friend, a middle school Spanish teacher who has spent much of her career working with low-income students in South Carolina. Or people like everyone I worked with last year at Su Casa Hispanic Center; an organization selflessly serving the entire Hispanic/Latino population of my city, no questions asked (such as their legal status). Or the countless men I know who are just as appalled as the women I know by the sexist things Trump has said or done. I want the Spaniards I know and the rest of the world to know that there are Americans who are kind-hearted and working tirelessly in their communities for change. And they will continue to work just as hard.
Being a foreigner is such a cool experience. You are something of an ambassador for your culture. You have the power to share with all who you meet everything you love about your culture. You get to dispel myths and stereotypes. And you get to talk about the election with everyone under the sun. You get to answer all their questions and reassure them in all of their doubt.
My contract with my school ends in May. I love it in Spain and will tentatively work here a second and maybe a third year, something I had already considered before the election. And as I continue to immerse myself more and more in life here, I will only have more and more chances to show people my America.
We must know that the world is watching us now. We have a choice to either fulfill their stereotypes or surprise them. I hope we surprise them.
Nina Bosken is a Cincinnati native living in Granada, Spain as an English teacher and blogger. She blogs about fashion and travel over at aworldofdresses.com. She can be found wearing a dress and updating her Snapchat story 95% of the time.