LENGUAGES AND LIFE
PAUL EDWARD RAYDER
My name is Paul, and I am a 23 year old language assistant at IES Complutense in Alcalá de Henares. I am from Queens, New York and I've been living in Spain since August of 2019. So far, it has been a roller coaster ride, and I am not looking forward to it ending.
After graduating university in New York, I went to Argentina for a few months and volunteered with a rugby program called Los Espartanos. They work exclusively in prisons helping inmates improve their quality of life by teaching them how to play rugby. I met and worked with some amazing people. I formed strong friendships with people from other cultures and of different languages. I heard an insurmountable amount of stories that I will never forget.
It was the first time in my life that I realized how vast and different this world truly is.I did not know that my experience playing rugby and teaching English to prisoners would change the next course of my life. That it would inspire me to continue helping people learn English. That I would be in Spain over a year later playing for a rugby club and being a teaching assistant for the English language.
Growing up in Queens, New York, I was surrounded by the Spanish language. I had friends who spoke it with their parents, but that’s all it ever was. A foreign language that would never have a grasp on my life. It wasn’t a part of my life. It did not have a culture for me. I got caught up in the brash, gruff, and oftentimes rude attitude of a New Yorker. I always had places to be, people to see. If I bumped into someone, sorry, but not really. I didn’t think the world had much more to offer than New York. I never thought of how cool it would be to have friends whose first language is not English.
Ever since I left the United States, I have not stopped learning. I constantly think of when the director of Los Espartanos gifted me a biography of the program and I stumbled upon an amazingly imposing remark about life. I feel this quote from the book suits my experience so far in Spain, and I find myself returning to it quite often.
It reads, "If we want things to happen in life, we've got to get out of our comfort zone. When we stay in familiar places where we feel comfortable, nothing ever changes; we don't make a difference, we don't allow ourselves to evolve, adapt, or improve, or bring about anything that will lead to a positive difference or new opportunity. It may feel safe to shut ourselves off from the outside world, but if we do that we won't improve our lives or the lives of those around us."
To conclude, there is nothing more humbling than living in a foreign country. I am constantly reminded that there is something much more greater than myself. Something that will continue to move, with or without you. All you can do is choose to join and enjoy, or remain on the sideline and go home near empty handed. I am so grateful to have this opportunity to live in Spain and learn so much that I would never be able to discover in New York.