On Saturday nights in Spain you are expected to go out. It doesn't matter if you are an exchange student from America that can still barely speak Spanish and has a hard time making friends in this country - you are expected to go out and have a social life.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that it is very important to make friends in your host country because they are your connection to the new culture. From them, you learn what it means be a teenager in the Spanish atmosphere.

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I'm really trying to make friends and find my place here, but it's a slow process.

Most weekends, my host dad breaks into a lecture of how I need to start going out on Saturdays and having fun with friends. I know that he only has the best intentions when saying these thing, but I'm frustrated and tired of being told that I need to try harder so I won't be "a friendless loser". I promise those were not his words - but that's exactly how I feel when being lectured.

Last week I had a four day weekend and spent some time with other exchange students here in Dénia. Other than that though, I layed around the house or went to the carnival with my little sister. "Today, you should ask your friends about plans this week or go out to lunch with them or something," my host dad suggested in the kitchen on Monday morning. I wanted to burst into tears. I was already feeling bad about the wasted weekend, and it was too early on a Monday morning to be reminded of my "friendless" situation.

Thankfully, things turned around this weekend. On Friday night I went to Burger King with a group of students in my class, and then we walked around the town just talking and having fun until 2a.m. It felt so good to be out of the house, pleasing my host parents, and actually enjoying myself with a group of kids my age. On Saturday night I went to my friend Lucia's house to watch a movie. It was just her and I - and we spoke in English... I hate to admit that. She studied in Canada for a year, so when we're together it's difficult not to fall into the bad habit of speaking English. We had a great night though and I told her how appreciative I was to have her as a friend. "I just couldn't imagine how hard it is for you," she told me.

And she's right. You don't know how hard it is to be an exchange student until you are one. It's a year of extreme difficulties but also one of greater rewards.

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