OUT OF THE BUBBLE YOU GO!
For a month before leaving, whenever I would think about living without my dear puppies, the rest of my family, my amazing friends, and the beaches by my house, I would start feeling butterflies that were saying things more along the lines of, "what were you thinking?!," rather than, "yay, adventure time!" Somehow I made it onto the plane for that 5:00 am flight, tears welling in my eyes and all. It's really up to you whether or not you're going to throw yourself into the situations that may at first seem uncomfortable but you know that are good for you (think: broccoli); because despite how hard it is at that moment, at some point boundaries do need to be pushed!
My Spanish Language & Culture program was exactly 90 days long and so I technically didn't need a visa. Some of my friends though, are traveling together after our programs end and if I didn't have my Spring semester in Granada coming up, I'd be really bummed out about having to go home so soon.
There is nothing that could have prepared me for having such a great experience studying abroad in Alicante! Despite the regrets I have listed here, I could go on and on and on about all of the greatness that I have experienced: swimming in ancient fish hatcheries, playing volleyball with Spanish locals, swimming among jellyfish (although that didn't last too long), and so much more.
'IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE...'
Before leaving, my friends and family were constantly telling me that this would be the best thing to happen to me and although so far it has been, I felt the need to make it great so that it almost felt stressed. Every time we would talk I would tell them about all the awesome, new things that were going on, but my most favorite thing has been what I'd do nearly everyday- just wading in the clear waters of the Mediterranean and allowing my mind to be there in that moment. It's weird because I'm at the beach nearly every week at home also, but experience doesn't have to mean doing a lot, being content with any the moment that just feels good is enough!
JACK & THE BEANSTALK
Three months have never taught me so much! I have had a mental and emotional growth spurt. Whatever you do, there is always a possibility of something awesome happening that you can grow from, and I wish it hadn't taken me so long to realize this. I will definitely be taking this mentality back with me to the States.
There are volunteering options here (and I'm sure in the other locations as well) that I just hadn't taken advantage of. I was busy but my friends had volunteered at the dog shelter that is close by and I would have loved to make that a weekly thing to do. I hadn't thought about it so if you're already interested in a specific location, ask about the volunteering opportunities there!
Culture shock might not mean much now but after leaving everything and everyone you've ever known and traveling to a place where you know no one is incredibly nerve racking! Then as you settle into your new home, you'll start feeling that the trade of comfort for vulnerability is helping you to open your eyes to a whole different way of life. Living in such a diverse area as Southern California, I felt that I had experienced a good amount of cultural differences, but this goes farther than eating sushi and chicken curry in the same week. You're having to undertake somewhat of a new identity and after the initial shock, you'll soon embrace your new Spanish identity.
RELEASE YOUR INNER JOURNALIST
I brought journals (three to be exact), and after October 23rd, I haven't written a thing. I do have a small pocket calender that I brought that I do write in to have a small summary of the things that happened everyday, but a little more elaboration would have been smart of me. If you know that you aren't too keen about keeping track of your daily activities but think you might regret not documenting, just jotting down some things in a pocket calender would be better than nothing, and it's just takes about two minutes.
I hadn't realized how important friends are until I came to a place where I literally had none! I'm that slightly reserved, private person that doesn't like to put her business out there, but when you are in the same lonely, culture-shocked boat as others, there is an instant bond that seems to connect you all, despite whether or not you would have ever become friends back home. The friends I've made here, both in the CEA group and friends we've made along the way, really made this trip worth blogging about in the first place. I've heard that the friends you make in college will stay with you for forever; and the friends I've made here are no exception!
"A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles." - Tim Cahill
As always, thanks for reading and buena suerte on your study abroad selection!
Kiana Fukuda is the Fall 2013 MOJO in Alicante, Spain. She is currently a sophomore at California State University, San Marcos.
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