Hometown: West Jefferson, Ohio
School: West Jefferson High School
Sponsor Club: Columbus, Ohio
Host District: 2203
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Alicante Costa Blanca
¡Hola! Hello! My name is Brie Mullins. I’m 16 and I’ve just finished my Sophomore year at West Jefferson high school. Starting at the end of August, I will be spending the next year of my life in Spain. I’m very excited to have this unique experience of living with a native family for the upcoming year. My parents and brother have been very supportive through the entire process of my departure. I have to thank my wonderful Rotary Club and my family for making this opportunity possible. Being only the second exchange student at my school, they were confused but there when I needed them and understanding when I had Rotary functions to care for. At school, I am the top of my class and I participate in many school functions. I am enrolled in every band I can be a part of. I play clarinet, bass clarinet, alto,tenor, and baritone saxophone, as well as the piano. My favourite subject is art followed by the music classes and Spanish. My passion is in the fine arts and so I hope to pursue a career in Illustration. I think this wonderful oppurtunity to live a year abroad in Spain will help me become an all around better artist and a better person simultaneously. Though I am filled with excitement and nerves, I cant wait to see how I will grow and blossom into an experienced citizen of not only the USA but of the world. I cannt express how grateful I am to my friends, family, and Rotary international for this chance to experience the beauty the world has to offer.
Letters to the Columbus Rotary Club (my sponsor club)
Dearest Columbus Rotary,
I cannot express exactly how thankful I am in words for this opportunity because there are not enough words soaked in gratitude to express my feelings. I will say this, thank you from the bottom of my heart because what I have learned here is something that will be with me for the rest of my life. Not only have I learned an incredible amount more in Spanish, as to be expected, but more about myself and people, too. This is a coveted experience that I wish everyone could go through because of the independence, tolerance, flexibility, and understanding that one gains while spending a year abroad.
On a lighter note, I’ve had had an abundance of ridiculous fun. I sometimes can’t believe the things that I’ve had the luck to do, I feel like I’m living in a dream most of the time.
When I first arrived in Spain, I saw the sights of Segovia, Avila, Merida, Caceres, Salamanca, and Banos de Montemayor. I’ve had so many great experiences by the grace of my host family, they love traveling and sharing every aspect of their culture. After the first two weeks of visiting my host father’s mother’s house on the edge of Spain next to Portugal, I finally made it to Alicante; my home away from home.
Alicante is a tropical dream with palm trees and beautiful beaches. I’m fortunate enough to live in the city center only a ten minute walk away the sea. Most days I go on a walk to the bay and just watch the sea. It’s a big difference moving to a coastal city from a landlocked farm town. After a seven hour car drive across Spain to finally reach Alicante, the fatigue faded after I saw the glimmer of the sea. I’ve never felt this calm until I came to Alicante. I’m truly blessed to have this opportunity. I’d never been to any ocean or sea until I came to Spain and now it holds a very special place in my heart.
Some of my fondest memories that I’ve made here were at the beach. Everyday before school started in the summer, I would accompany my host grandmother to the ice cream shop below our summer flat. We would buy two lemonades and sit with her gossip posse and watch the waves until lunch was ready. This was a priceless experience because I got a unique insight into Spanish culture as they spoke of their youth, family, and their opinions on little things in life. I learned so much about Spanish mannerisms and the language in general as well.
Once school began, I had to say goodbye to Lemonade but I got say hello to more cities in Spain than I ever imagined. Soon after school began, I went to Madrid for Rotary Orientation and soon after, Barcelona. Barcelona was like living in the clouds of every heavily art infused dream I ever had. The city was amazing from the architecture to the diversity of the people themselves. The mix between traditional Spanish, Catalan, and French culture mixed with vibes of the small British population of Spain. I adored the work of Gaudi and being able to appreciate his work in person. La Sagrada Familia was breathtaking. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything that beautiful and well balanced. Ever. It was a magical experience, like nothing I’ve ever been in the presence of before. Being the artist that I am, I think I’ll always have that memory stewing in the back of my head whenever I create something.
During a normal week, my only adventures are to art class across town and having jam sessions with my friends after school. At art class, I’ve learned things I’ve never heard of in the USA. The art teachers here really respect the refined technical aspect of art which I admire deeply. This is key for me because I agree that one must first learn the rules and regulations before breaking them creatively. Inspiration is always plentiful with these methods and I can only thank Rotary for this.
Jam sessions on my ukulele and my friends’ guitars are not only a breath of fresh air after an evening of study, but also a great way to get to know people. I’ve learned so much about my new found friends here from their taste of music and just messing around with instruments. This kind of relaxed hangout leads to great conversations and beautiful bonding experiences, and these kinds of friendships are ones that will last a lifetime.