This has been the fastest three and half a months of my life and hands down the best experience I have ever had. Study abroad opens your mind to a whole new world, one of beauty, culture, adventure, love, friendship and even a little fear.
When I first decided to study abroad I was afraid. Afraid of the unknown, afraid of not being able to communicate, of a language barrier I had no idea how to cross. I worried I wouldn’t make friends, that I would be homesick, that the culture shock would be too much for me. All of those fears gnawed at me until I landed in Seville and then quickly realized that they were completely unfounded.
|Bike tour of Seville on our first day|
I am not going to say don’t stress or don’t worry before you take the plunge and get on the plane to your new country, because it is impossible. But don’t let those fears mar your experience. Let them soak in and then forget about them. Take one day at a time and live in the moment.
Since I landed in Seville in the beginning of September, I have never looked back. Besides planning my next weekend trip, I have tried not to think about the future or the past, but live in the present. I adapted to the Spanish culture and stopped worrying about time. You realize after only a couple of days, that very few things in life deserve the importance of your time, of stressing. Before I came to Seville, everything stressed me out, I was wound too tight – I guess you could say a little high maintenance… But Spain changed that for me. I learned how to let go and let fate take the lead.
All of the articles you read and experts who give lectures about studying abroad talk about the highs and the lows. For a couple of weeks, they say, you will feel amazing, you will love your time abroad, and then you will hit a low. A period where the culture shock becomes overwhelming and all you want is someone to speak English to and a chipotle burrito. I do believe this happens to a lot of people and I completely understand why, but for some strange reason, it never happened to me. I rode on a high throughout my entire experience abroad. That is not to say I was never homesick and that I didn’t miss my family and food from the states, I just got over it very quickly. It was a fleeting moment, in a series of amazing ones.
This semester, I have traveled throughout Spain to Barcelona, Granada, Ronda, Malaga, Cádiz and Jerez. I went cliff jumping in Sagres, Portugal; paraglided over Interlaken, Switzerland; walked along the Seine in Paris, France; drank a Guinness at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland; ice skated outside in front of a castle in Budapest, Hungary. I have traveled with some of the best people, made new friends and loved every minute. While there were always obstacles to overcome, we did it together and always had a great story to tell. I have been struck speechless, in complete awe with every city and new adventure.
|Catedral de Sevilla at Sunset|
Throughout the weeks and on the weekends I wasn’t traveling, I was enjoying Seville. This beautiful city is small enough to walk from one end to the other and also large enough to get lost down narrow winding streets. It is my home away from home. From the Plaza de España, to the Catedral de Seville, the Alcázar and the Isla de la Cartuja, every monument, street and building has a story, a past.
Now that my time is coming to an end, I want to hold on to every moment and never let go. Throughout the day, I suddenly get the urge to sit down in the middle of a crowded cobblestoned street and hold on for dear life.
Time passes all too quickly when you study abroad. I am lucky enough to say that I enjoyed every experience and lived life to its fullest. I have eaten amazing foods, danced to Spanish music until dawn, run in the pouring cold rain, climbed to the highest point in the city and sat along the river watching the sky turn from pure blue to pink, purple and gold. I have made lifelong friends – ones that share the same need to explore and travel, that love to read, eat exotic foods and become immersed in another culture.
Coming to Seville has changed the way I view life, travel and friendship – it has started me on an adventure that has only just begun.
Kaleigh Shufeldt is the Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in Seville, Spain. She is currently a senior at the University of Arizona.
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