As my feet scuffled across the cool summer sand, my mind was racing, unable to imagine where my friends were leading me on my last night in this magic place. After the bandana was removed from my eyes a beautiful moonlit scene was revealed. My friends had prepared for me a special celebration for my departure from Spain on the Malvarosa beach — my heart began to throb with elation and sorrow at the same time. My name was traced in the sand illuminated by glowing candles. I couldn’t even imagine a more beautiful night under the stars to end my adventure of happiness, tears, and self-discovery. That night capped my incredible experience in Valencia and enriched me as a friend, a sister, and a daughter. It gave me a real-life experience of the depth and true value of friendship and understanding.
My decision to study abroad was inspired by a combination of things. Growing up in a generation where cultural curiosity is somewhat rare, I felt drawn to uncover a world of interesting people and exotic places. I was already introduced to the notion of cultural exploration early in life after traveling to Europe with my French-born mother. I discovered the real meaning of nature while in Normandy’s youth farm camps, picking fruit from the trees and wheat from the field to make my own flour and bake delicious homemade pies. I gained a sense of history from my participation in an archaeological dig in the forests of Burgundy, where an entire ancient Roman town with all its everyday artifacts was being unearthed by teams of European archeologists. Through these experiences, I learned the importance of curiosity, a curiosity that fed my motivation to meet the academic challenges my parents set for me and to pursue my desire to study Spanish and live abroad.
I boarded the plane to Barcelona with nothing but “hola” and “tengo hambre” in my Spanish vocabulary. Although this obviously made me very nervous, my mind was flooded by the excitement and mystery of what lay ahead of me. The early months of my life in Spain were a mountain of cultural adjustment, a mix of homesick Skype conversations, exploration, and overwhelming obstacles. How could I ever imagine that one day I would have to learn calculus and physics in a foreign language? After slowly adjusting to the full immersion in a Spanish public school and learning my host family’s values and traditions, the homesickness of the early weeks soon began to fade away. Each day I discovered a new place, a new person, or a new way of thinking, and soon realized that the mountain was really only a hill, as long as it was met with an open mind. Through my journeys and obstacles, and what eventually became an enriching experience, I now better comprehend the significance of learning from different people, no matter what language they speak, what country they live in, or what culture they represent.
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