A lot of people may not know that I used to live in the Netherlands. I was a ten-year old bubbly blonde running around the tiny village of Wassenaar, speaking fluent Dutch to strangers and riding my bike to Langstraat for appelflappens on Saturday mornings. My family and I spent countless weekends in Germany, London and Belgium, constantly navigating metros and foreign streets, sparking my curiosity and certainty among new cultures. No matter how unfamiliar the place, my confidence never wavered.
But this time is different. The independence I am forced to carry while abroad is greater than ever – even more than while attending an out-of-state college eight months out of the year. No longer am I an easy 2-hour flight from home. No longer do I have my parents’ immediate guidance. No longer do I get to order a steak dinner without batting an eye. If I screw up a flight (which, ironically, I’ve already done), that’s on me. Everything, from this point further, is entirely my responsibility.
Once I step on that flight to Seville on September 4th, I’m completely and 100% ON MY OWN. In a foreign country. With a new family… for almost four months. I’m exhilarated and terrified all at the same time, mostly due to the anticipation of it all. As someone passionate about international nonprofit work, I chose my university based on a few key requirements, including a distinguished study abroad program. For the past three years, I’ve searched for the perfect program, altered my major and minor, and saved up ALL my money (literally since 10th grade) for this experience. And it’s finally here. So yeah, I’m slightly freaking out.
But it’s a good freak out. It’s a my-life-is-about-to-change-for-the-better kind of freak out. I’m about to spend the most vibrant semester in Spain with students from around the world and a beautiful host family with THREE very young kids. Tapas every day, siestas in the afternoons, and weekends filled with adventures await me. I can already feel my appreciation for Spanish culture growing, and I hope my language skills will match that appreciation by the time December rolls around.
My hope is that I come back to the U.S. with a greater sense of passion and direction. My hope is that I become wiser and more culturally aware; someone who seeks to understand all sides of an issue rather than just one; someone who respects why people act and think in different ways. Our beautifully diverse world is more interconnected than ever before, and respecting everyone’s differences is no longer a courtesy – it’s a necessity.
With an open mind and eager spirit, I’m jumping into this semester with no inhibitions. My soul is yours for the taking, Spain. Let’s do this thing.