Hometown: Grove City, Ohio
School: Grove City High School
Sponsor Club: Grove City, Ohio
Host District: 2202
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Vilassar-Burriac
¡Hola! My name is Mallory Johnston and I’m spending my junior year of high school in Vilassar de Mar, Spain. Vilassar de Mar is a coastal city about 25 km North of Barcelona, Spain. It is located in Catalonia, a region of Spain which only speaks Catalan, a language derived from French and Spanish roots. I’m originally from Grove City, Ohio and I attend Grove City High School, where I participate in marching band, and clubs such as Spanish Club and Rotary Interact Club. I love Interact Club because it allows me to volunteer my time for others. I love spending time with my friends and family, and I love learning about different cultures. In my free time I love to knit, it is something I learned from my aunts and uncles when I was younger and it is a really special part of my family. Studying abroad for a year in high school is an amazing opportunity and it has led me to make so many great friendships with other exchange students. I’m so thankful to Rotary for this amazing opportunity and to all of my friends and family who have supported me through this journey. Adeu!
Monthly letters to Grove City Rotary club (my sponsor club!)
December has truly been an exciting month- I’ve done a lot of traveling both around Spain and Europe and I’ve been learning so much about Catalonia’s… interesting Christmas traditions.
My first trip was to Alicante, Spain, a beautiful beach city and the home of a fellow Ohioan and exchange student from West Jefferson, Ohio. We went on many adventures, including exploring an old castle on top of a mountain and making our first tortilla española, a typical Spanish dish consisting of egg and potato. It was so much fun to spend a weekend with a friend and to learn more about Spanish culture.
Christmas in Spain in very different than in America. They have many different traditions, including Papa Noël, (the Spanish version of Santa Claus), Los Tres Reyes Magos (The Three Wise Men) and Caga Tio (roughly- Poop Log). Where I live Los Tres Reyes and Caga Tio are very popular, Los Tres Reyes deliver the gifts on January sixth. In Catalonia, they have Caga Tio, a log which is dressed up as a little person and they keep it as a pet during December, feeding him every night. On Christmas, the children beat him with sticks and sing a song, and Caga Tio… poops out the gifts. Another Catalan Christmas tradition is Caganer (roughly- poop boy) this is a little statue of a man pooping which they hide in the Nativity. If you find Caganer, it is believed you’ll have good luck in the upcoming year. These are some pretty odd traditions, but they made for a Christmas I’ll never forget.
After Christmas I had the opportunity to travel to Rome with my host family on a cruise. We visited Rome for three days and we were able to see Imperial Rome and Vatican City. My favorite thing I saw while there was the Coliseum, it’s so impressive and beautiful. The food in Italy was also impressive, my favorite being the pizza.
November has been a great month, I’ve really noticed my language skills improving- especially in Spanish. I’ve learned that fluency is something that comes slowly, and can’t be forced. I’m taking Catalan lessons at the community school in my city, which really helps me in school because most of my classes are in Catalan.
I’ve gone on many adventures this month, including climbing part of Montserrat, a famous mountain near Barcelona. The views were amazing and the autumn colors of the forest were beautiful. I’ve also been traveling around Barcelona with friends, and I’m really starting to fall in love with the city and it’s culture.
Also this month, one of my best friends from West Jefferson, Ohio who is on exchange in Alicante, Spain, was able to come visit Barcelona with her host family. It was so nice to see a familiar face and speak English again. While she was here, we were able to see some of Antoni Gaudi’s work at Park Güell.
This month has been very exciting and I’m learning so much about myself on this journey. I’m so thankful to the Grove City Rotary Club and District 6690 for their support and guidance, I can’t wait to see what this country has in store for me!
Hola from Spain! What an amazing (almost!) two months it has been! I thought I would give the Grove City Rotary Club an update on how I have been doing.
Wow! So many amazing things have happened since I arrived here it’s hard to contain them to just one email!
In my first month here I took a trip to Oloron, France with my host family, and I was able to see the Pyrenee Mountains! I also traveled to Madrid, where I went to a Rotary Conference and I got to meet other exchange students and make friends. This past weekend I went to Logoño, Spain with my rotary district and we got to see so many beautiful vineyards and churches.
My host city is so beautiful, and it’s the perfect size for me to walk everywhere- especially the beach! I started school, which has been difficult, but very good. Because I’m living in Catalonia, the people here speak both Spanish and Catalan, so I have been learning both. It can be frustrating a times, but I’m trying to study and learn as much as I can. I have made lots of friends at school, and with beautiful Barcelona just a train ride away, the weekends are full of shopping and paella (a traditional Spanish dish).