My recent travel experience was not just seeing another country, but rather experiencing it. Recently, I had the privilege to travel to, live, and study in Alicante, Spain. I spent three weeks this past June immersing myself into the culture and lifestyle of a Spaniard while taking college level Spanish courses. I had always wanted to experience another way of life and studying abroad through the Worlds of Spain Educational Program allowed me to do so. My time in Spain was more than just being a tourist, as studying abroad and experiencing the culture taught me many life lessons.
Alicante is a beautiful coastal city in the South of Spain, where I lived in an apartment in the middle of the city with a wonderful Spanish family that brought me in as if I was their own. While living with them, they shared their traditions with me; helping me to embrace their culture. I accepted their lifestyle and experienced their regional food, attended traditional bull fights, El Torro, and followed their daily routine.
My travel to Spain was spent with 40 other students from my high school, all with the same goal in mind- to experience and embrace a new and different culture. Our tour director, Jose, wanted us to fully be integrated into the Spanish culture and while we lived in Alicante, we took excursions to visit other cities throughout Spain. We visited Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, Valencia, and my favorite Toledo. The cities in Spain were filled with beautiful old architecture with quaint little streets, which I fell in love with. My favorite places we visited were El Parque de Madrid in Madrid, La Alhambra in Granada, Park Guell in Barcelona, and the entire city of Toledo.
I have studied Spanish over the past six years, with the goal to become fluent in the language. Living in Spain allowed me to improve my speaking skills and understanding of the Spanish language. As I attended school taught by a Vanderbilt University professor, the course expanded my knowledge of their history, increased my language skills, and helped me to become aware of the problems they face within their own country. In addition to going to school in Spain, we took dance lessons and learned traditional Spanish dances, and sailing lessons with Spaniards to become surrounded with their traditions.
My experience in Spain has changed me in many ways, it was not a vacation or place to visit but rather than a life changing cultural immersion. I am more open minded about new experiences, and have a better perspective on life and where I want to go in my future. As I experienced their culture, I broke down any discriminations or judgments I had previously, and became more accepting about cultural differences and personal backgrounds that are different from my own. I want to use this opportunity to expand my personal values, and be more aware of the world in which I live in.
My time abroad studying in Spain has not only opened my eyes to what is beyond what I know, but has also encouraged me to expand my hopes and dreams for my future. I hope to study abroad, work abroad or live in another country again, so I can expand on what I did in Spain this past summer. I have become a better rounded person because of it. My study abroad has made me appreciate the opportunities I have and has given me a new outlook on what I desire for myself and for my future.
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