Ever since I first began to learn Spanish, I told myself (and others) that I was going to travel to Spain in the future. As I grew older and realized that traveling takes work to happen, I started to doubt that I would have the opportunity to go. When I reached my first year in college, I decided that I needed to plan for study abroad, knowing that during student years is a wonderful time to travel and explore and that the university offers an abundant option of programs and countries to study in. I was excited to apply and nervous about the decision, so receiving my acceptance letter to the IES Abroad program nearly stopped my heart. It was unbelievable to me that I would be spending an entire semester in a place I’d only dreamed of visiting.
I was fortunate enough to receive some scholarships, such as the OVPDEMA study abroad scholarship, which gave me the opportunity to focus more on planning and packing than working to save. I spent months figuring out every detail of the trip, making lists, and researching places to visit. When the time came to leave, I could hardly believe that I was going. I met several people in the airport on my way and one boy is still a very close friend to this day, as we spent nearly everyday together with other friends. I remember getting off the plane, hearing the pilot say “Hemos llegado en Madrid, España… (We have arrived in Madrid, Spain,) and thinking that it must be a dream. I don’t think that the reality of being there really set in until a month or so later.
Madrid was a beautiful city and I felt lucky to have visited it, let alone call it home. I found something new to do every day and new people to practice my Spanish with. I hiked 61 miles across the country on the Camino de Santiago and chatted with townspeople in small pubs. I learned about the culture firsthand and helped to teach middle school children English in a school older than my university. I met tons of new friends, many of them lifelong, and I fell in love with Spanish food, music, and boys. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t miss Spain, Madrid especially, and reminisce on the wonderful times I had there. I could not wait to return someday to the place I liked to think of as my second home.
While abroad, I also had the amazing opportunities to visit Italy, specifically Rome, Venice, Florence, and Sienna, and I relaxed on the beach on the Grand Canary Islands. I found that Spain felt like an entirely different life from the one I normally lead, and it gave me a chance to step out of my comfort zone. I found myself navigating the streets of a city, talking to strangers about their day in coffee shops, taking classes on topics that has always interested me, but never been an option, and staying out until 6 am dancing at bars with my friends. If I had to list all of the wonderful memories I have, it would fill page after page, and those would only scratch the surface. I wouldn’t trade my experience abroad for anything and I now fully understand why people tell me it was one of the best decisions you can make. While it could also be scary, difficult, and tedious sometimes, studying abroad and taking that chance to travel was extremely rewarding, fun, and fulfilling.