Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Frustration and that small thing called Spanish.

Something I really struggle with is frustration.

This week has been a week of trying to figure out what I've been feeling, and why I've been feeling a little bit like a roller coaster. Most of the time I feel so happy, being where I am. Like I wrote in the blog I posted yesterday, I am so excited. So many things bring such joy into my life, but so many things brings disappointment, anger and frustration. Normally I complain to Mum about it, or think about it for half an hour and then get distracted by the next crazy, fun thing in the life of an exchange student. But I think it's about time that I sit up and look at why I feel these emotions, and try to deal with the problems.

"I guess I haven't written anything in my diary because I felt like I didn't have anything to say.... except that I have everything to say. I know that in 10 years time I am going to look back on these past couple of days wondering what I did and how I felt. And I won't be able to remember. I feel a little bit like a puppy. I am getting so distracted. One moment I'm feeling so excited about something new that I've understood, and then the next I'm sad because I feel like I don't understand anything. And it's not just understanding. It's speaking. My understanding of the language is light-years ahead of my speaking. I want to speak Spanish. I do. Desperately. But I just get so scared. Not even scared really. It's just that English is easier to use. I need to get out of that mindset now. Right now. Spanish, here I come. Look out. Laura Konemann is coming!"

I often write in this blog about how exchange is hard, and then go on to say how good it is. Often, the things that exchange so hard, are things that I can't talk about on a public blog.

But, I want to write about these frustrations. I often feel like I'm getting whiplash from the emotions I experience. I feel so incredible blessed to be here in Spain, and I absolutely love it, but with every good thing, there is also the downsides. I get so frustrated and disappointed in my lack of Spanish. I know that I have improved so much from when I first arrived in Spain, but I honestly hoped and thought that I would be soaring along right now. I thought that conversations would be easy, that I would be able to communicate all that I want, and that I'd be actively participating in class by now. I know now, that that was an unrealistic expectation for most exchange students learning another language. But, I also know, that if I applied myself more, I would be further along in my language skills. I can understand so much more than I can communicate, and that just pretty much breaks my heart, that I can't yet express how I'm feeling, or reply back straight away. At home, I speak English with the kids, to help them learn English. This brings me great joy, seeing them improve a little each day, but with that the biggest frustration that the people I spend the most time with, and the people I talk to most, I have to speak English with them.

Everyday I understand a little more. I love understanding, but it also comes with its drawbacks. In school, there is one teacher who stands against everything that I am: English speaking, and faith. I am an English speaker. I am a Christian. Every lesson without fail she tells her class how much she dislikes these two things, which gets me extremely frustrated. My class doesn't like it either, but they say they have to put up with it. I get so... exhausted. Exhausted of trying so hard to understand, only to feel like what she is saying is directed personally to me. Exhausted of understanding everything except the key point. And although I'm understanding some things, most of the time I'm clueless. Especially if the question or statement is directed at me. I'm so sick of being the idiot!

I don't like not understanding, and I don't like it even more when people remind me every single time I don't understand a word or sentence. So often I feel like a failure because I don't apply myself as much as I should, and that I've been here for 11 weeks, and still don't understand a lot. I look at other people's exchanges, and get incredibly jealous of their language skills or their lives, when deep down I know that they are struggling with the exact same things as I am.

This year (so far!) has been a great year of growth for me, as I have learnt to trust and depend on God so much. As I've said in past posts, my family and friends and familiar and safe place is not here in Spain. But God is. And I feel like God has placed me where I am, with the difficulties I have, for a reason. But it doesn't make it any easier. Something that I have greatly struggled with is comfort. Comfort means, "To soothe in time of affliction or distress." I have realised these past couple of weeks, that I have put my comfort in English. Mum told me about how people often put their comfort in other things like food, sport, language instead of God. For me, this past week has been a week of true realisation that I have put my comfort in English instead of God. Things that I think I can control. And, this isn't the way it should be. I use English instead of Spanish because it is easy. I know English. I don't have to be afraid of getting things wrong, or not knowing what to say. I fall back on English too much, so that I leave no space for me to fall and make those language mistakes so I can pick myself up again and learn how to say it properly. I have put my comfort in English instead of God. I have soothed myself, relieved myself of my frustrations (at least I thought I had!) by using English. But, instead of feeling soothed, I feel frustrated. Frustrated at myself, my situation, and the fact that I can't speak Spanish.

This, this post, is me telling the world that I need to put my comfort in God. I need God's unfailing love to be the warm blanket that makes me feel better, for it to soothe my distresses, relieve the pain. English, food, sport, these things can't take away the frustrations or my problems. The only thing that can is God. Instead of trusting in Him properly, stepping forward on this scary thing called exchange, I've run and hidden under a table, excusing myself from getting my hands dirty, telling myself that it's "too scary" or "too hard". I didn't come on exchange expecting it to be easy. I didn't come on exchange to back out or run away from the hard times. I came on exchange to confront these aspects of life that I struggle with, to challenge myself beyond compare. I came on exchange to learn Spanish, experience a culture and gather enough knowledge and memories and experiences to last the rest of my life.

This is me, telling you all publicly that this is my aim of exchange. I don't want to return from exchange full of 'what-ifs'. What if I had learnt Spanish fluently? What if I had tried that dish? What if I had invited myself to that party? I want to let myself fall into the comfort of God's love and spread my wings and truly fly. God has amazing things planned for the rest of this year, and I need to trust in Him and let Him guide me through that.

So what I ask for is prayer. Prayer that I will follow through on what I am saying. Prayer that I will lean on God and have His unfailing love be my comfort. Prayer that I will praise the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.

The following bible verses are some that have been really eye opening to me, and have given me great comfort over the last day or two. I encourage you to look at your own lives, and see where you have been finding comfort. You may be surprised. I was.

May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. - Psalm 19:76

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. - 2 Corinthians 1:2-4

I love those who love Me, and those who seek Me early and diligently shall find Me. - (Proverbs 8:17) (Sent to me from another exchanger, Vic - http://stepsandslow.blogspot.com/ )

P.S. After writing all this, I'm still loving my time here, and being encouraged greatly by all that I'm learning and being challenged in.


  1. Go girl! How wonderful to read all about your struggles in such an honest and open way, while knowing that even though there are these frustrations you are having the time of your life. Love you to the moon and back. Love Mum

  2. i love reading your blog posts because they so eloquently describe the things i stuggle with...yet can't even put into words...langauge learning is so frustrating...i get the feeling stupid, understanding almost everything but not being able to reply, talking at the level of a five year old, speaking english because i know i wont make mistakes and its less embarrassing for me...but i've discovered something..the self satisfaction, pride, complements and the overall sense of achievement when you manage to say something or answer a question in class or impress someone is very much worth all of the mistakes. Keep your head up and smile becuase i can see your exchange is a happy one, much like mine, and we're so blessed to have that!!!
    xoxo Mel