Angelica studied abroad with us in Salamanca in 2008, and for International Education Week she shared with us what international education meant to her, and how study abroad impacted her in a big way.
It was a brisk January morning five years ago that I was headed to the airport with my parents, a huge suite case in tow, about to board a plane to a foreign country. At the age of 18, I was the youngest in the group of 14 students, all headed for what was to be an “experience of a lifetime.” That was an understatement. For me, as cliché as it might sound, it was an experience that made me find who I really was. Shy, timid, and not a people-person in the least bit, my anxiety level was rather high as I shook the hands of the people I would be traveling with, complete strangers, all embarking on this extraordinary adventure. Little did I know that I would later call these people my family.
Our first day in Madrid, we boarded a bus for a short tour of the city. Beautiful architecture, stunning scenery; all of us were mesmerized by this old-world charm. At the end of the tour, we walked to the main Plaza, and from there we were free to do whatever.
We had been handed a detailed map of the city, and as I looked at this map and the guide book in my other hand, something told me to throw them into the nearest trash can.
And then I did the most uncharacteristic thing I had ever done. Without the map or guidebook in hand, I shouted “If anyone is ready for an adventure, follow me!” And they did. I was never a leader, never someone who just did things spontaneously, but at that moment, I had become not a new person, but rather the person I was always meant to be. My life path had turned a corner; I was ready for whatever came my way.
For the rest of the trip, I followed my gut and my heart as to where I would go and what I would do. I adopted an attitude of “why not?,” something that I now live in my everyday life. Those two words led me to eating exotic foods with an assortment of characters and stories to tell, running with bulls through old cobblestone streets, and delving into the roots of the beautiful Spanish culture that I love.
To this day, I haven’t gone back into the shadows of my former self, and I allow all my true colors to shine. As promised, my study abroad trip to Spain was the “experience of a lifetime,” one that I will cherish for all my years to come.