The plain wooden door slowly creeks inward and I hold my breath. Fear, excitement, and anxiety engulf me as I hear, “Mis bonitas chicas!” I look over at my companions and I know the same feelings are racing through them. As the small seventy-year-old woman, acting like a mother hen, ushers us into her small apartment I take a deep breath and plunge into an unknown frightening world.
In the summer of 2008, I spent three weeks studying abroad in Spain with Study Program International, or SPI. While in Spain I was fortunate enough to visit many spectacular cities: Madrid, Toledo, Burgos, and Santander. I lived in Santander for two and a half weeks, during which I lived with a host family and two other roommates. My roommates and I attended a local university with other students from the United States where we relearned rudimentary Spanish. After school we had the opportunity of exploring the diverse city of Santander on our own.
While living in Spain I learned more from my experiences out on the streets of the city than in the classroom. A classroom can only teach so much, but an infinite amount of information can be learned from actually living life. And that is what I did with my time in Spain; I experienced life. During these precious three weeks I learned how to stand on my own two feet without having to rely on anyone in order to flourish. From the smallest instances I have learned life long lessons.
I have learned how to manage what little money I had. Before taking this exotic trip I had saved as much money as I could in order to use it while in Spain. Unfortunately this was a miserly minute amount. I quickly realized that I could not just randomly spend money on unimportant things when I still had to pay for transportation, food, supplies, and other vital items. I was lucky that I realized this early in my adventure because at the end I was able to bring back a few precious items in order to remember my time in Spain. While in Spain, I did indeed learn the value of the dollar, or euro.
Probably the most significant piece of information I was able to walk away with from this life-changing trip was my sense of independence and self-assurance. Many people are terrified at the idea of traveling to someplace new or experiencing the previously unknown. I, on the other hand, relish in the thought of the exciting unknown, in the infinite possibilities. However, I was not always like this. I used to be one of the many who did not like the idea of change and uncertainty; one of those who was comfortable with the mundane life. This changed though when I was thrown into a foreign country where I knew no one and hardly spoke the language. By being put in such an extreme circumstance as this it occurred to me that I could survive and even flourish in it. I was able to rely on myself and know that I could handle anything.
I changed that summer. I grew up. That trip has been an all time favorite of mine; not only from the people I met or the places I saw or the language I learned, but because of the part of me that I never knew that I possessed. I left for Spain being just Megan Hendricks and came back as the responsible, mature, savvy, resourceful, and independent Megan Hendricks who writes to you today.
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