So there I was, alone.
I couldn’t look at him; I would cry. So I walked down the terminal, away from my dad and onward toward my flight. I was juggling two bags of luggage, but I was still leaving everything behind.
It was June 9, 2009, the depart date for the students of the IU Honors Program in Foreign Languages destined to Ciudad Real, Spain for seven weeks. It was a date I had been looking forward to for the previous nine months, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Here I was, a gregarious little girl who thrived on her social circle, leaving behind her friends, family, and language (through the rules of the program, I could not speak any English during my time in Spain). It was the first time I had ever been alone.
While riding the bus to Ciudad Real, I, jet-lagged from a nine-hour plane ride, couldn’t fall asleep. All I could do was stare out the window. The country, La Mancha, was so different, so natural, so ancient. I was mesmerized; I half-expected Don Quixote to appear with Sancho Panza on his side. The red dirt, windmills, shrubbery, and huts were so different than the cornfields and billboards I was used to in Indiana. How could something this beautiful and unusual exist? Oddly enough, viewing La Mancha calmed my nerves. I began to feel at home.
Ciudad Real, surprisingly modernized in comparison to the Paleolithic outskirts, was quaint and comfortable. The students and I soon found our place in La Plaza Mayor, the home of bakeries, clothing stores, and, most importantly, Helados Moran, the ice cream parlor that served heaven in a cone. But the most memorable times in IUHPFL occurred during our excursions. The students and I traveled to Toledo, Cordoba, Granada, Madrid, and Almagro. All were unforgettable—Toledo with La Catedral de Santa Maria, Cordoba with La Mezquita, Madrid with its Monumento a Alfonso XII en el Parque del Retiro and Almagro with its theater that’s older than Spain.
But the city I connected with the most was Granada.
It’s structured as a bowl—a plush valley of forests surrounds the city filled with white, plain, but beautiful, buildings. And on the southeastern border of the city, Alhambra, a palace and fortress of the Moorish rulers of Granada, overlooks the town. The view from Alhambra is unexplainable; I stood on the palace edge, alone, for hours overlooking the city, trying to see pass the horizon. I, a mere tourist, felt like I had the world in my hands, like my possibilities were endless. I knew there was so much more of the world to see, more than the cornfields and billboards I was used to in Indiana. And I needed to see them.
I went to Spain without friends, family or a language. And after just seven weeks in a country thousands of miles away from everything I knew, I came back to the States with new friends, a new family, a new language, and a new attitude about my future. It’s weird to think a simple program could change me so much. Traveling and seeing the world independently doesn’t faze me anymore, in fact, I wish to do more of it. During my time in Spain, I kept an open mind about everything. Things were different, and slightly strange, but that’s what made it beautiful.
That’s what makes this world beautiful.
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