My decision to study abroad in Spain for an academic year began this past January.
Although my decision was rather impulsive (after all, it was made on a bus), it wasn’t an easy one. For me, it was just something I had to do.
My realization began when I signed up for a three-week intersession class on Spanish culture with Cal State Fullerton Professor Juan Carlos Gallego, Ph.D. The class was held in Madrid, a bustling city with a population of an estimated 3.5 million people. Within the short three weeks I was in Spain, I was able to experience their culinary culture, history and nightlife, but failed to connect to the people that have built such a beautiful country.
As a Latina woman, not speaking Spanish interfered with my ability to connect with the country that truly speaks to me. My lack of Spanish kept me from pursuing what I desired. I wished for a more sincere experience filled with meaningful friendships with Spanish people that could perhaps change my outlook on life.
It was on a bus ride from Madrid to the historic city of Granada that Professor Gallego mentioned that the Cal State system offered an academic program in Jaén, where students received the opportunity to learn Spanish. In that moment I knew I was going to come back, learn Spanish and experience what Spain had to offer on a more intimate level.
Flash forward eight months later and here I am, living in Jaén, wondering if I had made the right decision to leave my life behind and start somewhere new. I question if I’ll even be able to make it to the end of the program by June 2017.
The uncertain challenges I will undergo while abroad is a terrifying, yet an exhilarating thought. I never questioned my choice to leave during the summer leading up to my departure – I just ran with my decision. Now that I’m here I can’t help but wonder what my life will be like when I return home next year. Will my life resume as if I had never left? Will I even want to come back to the United States? Will my dog still remember me? An endless array of questions fill my mind daily, but in due time, I know they will be answered.
As I embark on my journey to understand myself and gain new perspectives on life, I will keep what Mark Twain once said in mind.
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor; catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
I have completed the first step of embarking on my year-long journey escaping the comforts of Southern California and wandering into the unknown. Only time will tell how my journey culminates.
Ink Stains from Spain will be my way of chronicling my experiences, adventures and hardships as I dive into Spanish culture and attempt to adjust to life abroad.