Columbia High School Teens In Spain
Isabel Litman and Even Walter are learning Spanish and about life overseas.
The following article appeared in the March, 2012,volume 100, issue 3 edition of The Columbian, the student newspaper of Columbia High School
!Litman y Walter Vivan la Vida en España!
By Harley Bail, junior - Staff Writer
Photo Courtesy of Evan Walter
Photographer (I. Litman photo) and Page Designer – Hannah Rafkin, junior
A typical year in the life of a student involves schoolwork, social lives, and family.
But Isabel Litman, ‘13, and Evan Walter, ‘11, have not had the typical year.
Instead of attending classes at Columbia High School, Litman spent her first
semester as a junior living in Spain with a host family; the trip was facilitated by the Program of Academic Exchange.
Walter is also experiencing Spanish life abroad. He is spending a year in Madrid, working as an au pair before attending Tulane University in the fall of 2012.
“Leading up to my senior year, I was feeling pretty burnt out from school and was pretty certain I wanted to take a gap year,” Walter said.
He found the family through a friend who had worked for the same family the year before.
Walter has been au pairing for the family since September 2011 and will remain with them until June 2012.
Walter’s trip has allowed him to experience many cultural nuances.
“Small things like differences in how we hold our silverware. Talking on the phone at dinner is okay. Learning that it is not polite to wait to open a wrapped gift once you get it,” he explained.
There are four children in the family that Walter au pairs for. “The kids are all pretty different.
They all are loud and hot tempered, but most Spanish people I meet say that is
the norm,” he said.
“The youngest is named Jacobo; I spend most of my time teaching him English and playing with him. Since his concept of numbers and counting in English isn’t too strong, it can be pretty funny at times,” said Walter. “Juan and Inigio are in fifth and sixth grade. They both love soccer [but] Inigio is [a bit] obsessed [with] his looks, which is sort of a Spanish thing as well. Carlos is the oldest and is always reading.”
“My job details here are to do small chores like set the table for breakfast, clean the kids’ rooms and bathroom, walk the dog and just help out with whatever needs to get done.”
In addition, Walter takes Spanish classes for about three hours each day, teaches the kids in the family English, plays with them, and helps out until 9 p.m. “Night life in Madrid starts pretty late so if I end up going out, I’ll normally meet some people in a bar or restaurant around 10 or 11 [p.m.]”
But being an au pair does have its downsides. “I have my own room, so I don’t really feel like I lack privacy, but at times it can be hard to relax completely knowing that your ‘boss’ is always one room away,” Walter said. “It’s made me appreciate little things like being able to relax on my own couch or being able to grab whatever food I want out of the kitchen.”
Similarly, Litman decided to embark on her Spanish adventure in order to experience the culture, and to learn Spanish more fluently inspired by her Puerto Rican background. Litman stayed in the city of Bilbao with her two “sisters,” “mom,” and “dad.”
She arrived in Spain in early September 2011, and returned on Jan. 4, 2012.
“In Spain, I did everything a normal 16 year old did. I lived with a host family and went to school at the local high school,” Litman said.
Like Walter, living with a host family has also helped Litman to appreciate her home in America. “I had to take Spanish Literature instead of English Literature [and] I also was required to take English as a language. I was learning things at age 16 that I had learned in preschool at home in New Jersey.”
Other difficulties that Litman encountered were the differences in her daily schedule which differed from her life in the U.S.
“They sleep a lot less there. We usually didn’t start eating dinner until around 9:30 or 10 p.m., and then we would have to wake up at 6 a.m.”
Besides attending school, Litman also spent time with friends. “Usually, I would go out with my friends and my host sister after school [and] on the weekends,” she said. “Being around Spanish teenagers my age was very useful in learning the language.”
Since Litman’s return to CHS, she has found it difficult to remember to speak solely English again. “I had trouble saying ‘that is embarrassing’ to my guidance counselor. I had to say ‘I become embarrassed’ instead, because I couldn’t figure out the correct English term for ‘to be embarrassed.’”