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What I Found While I Was Lost

One thing I value the most about my study abroad experience is when I set out on my own and got lost. I found that dedicating time for myself to wander and explore Alicante, Spain, transformed my study abroad experience into something more than just attending classes in another country. I found that my entire perspective changed, I experienced things that enriched my life, and I allowed the beauty of a different culture and language to truly captivate me.
 Word art (left) and traditional Spanish art graffiti (right)

Most people typically associate getting lost with feeling anxious, scared, or nervous, but I found a sense of calmness and an excitement to explore. Sometimes my excitement filled me with happiness, just being where I was and walking on streets I had never walked on before. The only decision that made me anxious was choosing which street to turn down next, leaving me wondering what I missed down the street I left behind. However, I was never disappointed.

When I was lost, I found a slight spring in my step and a smile on my face. I discovered the narrow cobble stone streets, small Spanish homes that overflowed onto the walking path, beautiful lush plants hanging from every window, and the constant hum of Spanish and music that filled my ears.

I stumbled upon the cutest shops and cafes with the nicest local owners, who helped me realize that my Spanish was better than I imagined. A lovely Colombian woman and owner of my favorite coffee shop thought I was actually from Spain the first few times I visited. By the end of my stay in Alicante, she offered me a room in her home and invited me to spend time with her family. If I hadn't wandered on my own, I never would have had the chance to meet that special woman.

 Spanish church located in the antique barrios (left) and narrow streets throughout Alicante (right)

When I was lost, I found confidence, I found happiness, and I found an excitement to live, learn, and explore. People wonder why travelers always want to continue exploring immediately after they get home. By getting lost, I found it is because we grow and change, become wealthy with experiences, and are bewitched by a different way of life. The combination of these beautiful things is what keeps travelers begging for more. Who can blame us?

Sophia Johnston is a CEA alumna (Alicante Summer'14). She is an Alumni Ambassador and senior at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse.

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