During the summer before my junior year of high school, I traveled to Spain with the world language department at my school. I did well in my Spanish class and could speak enough Spanish to order food, and ask where the bathroom is. When I signed up for the trip, I only expected to have fun being in a new environment. Of course, that happened, but I also learned new things that I will carry with me everywhere I go for the rest of my life.
I learned so much about the Spanish culture, so much more than could be taught in any Spanish class. Spanish people are kind, much kinder than Americans. From waiters in restaurants to people on the metro, everyone I met in Spain was kind to me. If I tried to order my food in Spanish at a restaurant, the waiter would be extremely patient. Usually, they would talk slower so that I could understand them better. Whenever my group would get onto the metro others on the metro would make room and do it with a smile. This rarely happens on the metros and subways here in the United States.
But I observed that their kindness didn’t stop at just tourists. I watched as the people of Spain were kind to each other. I watched young people politely give up their seats on the metro for the elderly. They held doors for each other and greeted others with a smile. There was a certain level of chivalry that is uncommon in the United States anymore. It made me think about how I treat other people daily. Am I kind? Am I polite? It led to a deep reflection of myself, causing me to learn new things about myself. I had always thought of myself as polite, but maybe I needed to show more compassion to my fellow human beings. So when I came home I started implementing more compassion into my daily life, by going out of my way to help those in need.
During my trip, I learned that I could fall in love with a place and with its people, a type of love that I had never felt before. Spain felt magical to me almost like I was in a fairytale. From the wonderful people to the wonderful food, I was in a happy and positive state of mind. Bringing back Spain’s positivity into my own life improved my relationships with family members and my peers. I was more patient and compassionate, and I still am.
When I went I also learned about Spain’s rich culture and history. We went to El Prado, which is an art museum. The art there is from Spanish artists and many pieces depict pride in their country. This made me reflect on where I had pride in my own life. Did I take as much pride in my work as I should? This helped me take more pride in my projects and grow as a student. I put more effort into my work.
Going to Spain and being exposed to a new culture allowed me to reflect on my life. It helped me improve myself, my relationships, and the quality of work that I put out. These lessons will stay with me. After this trip, whenever I go to new places I try to bring something new back with me. Something that will improve my life for the better, and make me a better person. Being able to improve me is the best part about traveling.
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