I could tell you in great detail about the crystal-blue Mediterranean Sea that borders Alicante’s pristine beaches. I could also show you photos of my Spanish host family, and describe the trendy Alicante nightlife. However, I could never communicate the intangible feelings of cultural immersion and self-discovery during my time abroad.
Anyone who has ever left the country knows how culturally rich and diverse the world really is. I came to understand that my abroad experience was about more than learning the native Spanish language, but involved understanding local customs and a truly unique way of life. I fell in love with the quaint coastal city that offered historic architecture, authentic restaurants and friendly Spaniards. My time spent there was simply irreplaceable and has prompted me to pursue yet another foreign adventure.
Upon my return to the University winter quarter, it didn’t take me long to find a way overseas again. With some paperwork and a few small parental battles, I was committed to a journalism internship abroad for summer 2009 in Dublin, Ireland. Before long, the logistics of an internship overseas this summer soon began to sink in. I had come to the realization that I would be heading to Dublin, not with a study abroad program and other American students, but alone.
There will be no comfort of a host family, and I will also be on my own to navigate the unfamiliar city streets. My living arrangements will entail a flat with other international college students whom I have never met, and I will essentially be living with strangers. The factor of the unknown brings about feelings of uneasiness, but also excitement. My visions of traditional Irish pubs, folklore and grassy hillsides may not be exactly how I anticipate them, but they will soon be within my reach. It is challenging to say my expectations thus far – I may not return home with a leprechaun or a pot of gold – but I am confident I will bring back an experience worth my while.
After my time in Spain and my visits to 11 other countries in Europe, I returned to the U.S. feeling not only changed, but inspired. The transition from the tropics of Alicante to rainy Eugene came as a shock. I was unsure of how I would reconnect with friends and adjust to the absence of my host mother Rosa yelling “comer” (eat) before every meal or “ten cuidado” (be careful) each time I left the house. I was sure of only one thing – I wanted to go back. Although I won’t be heading back to Spain this time, you can bet I already looked up the airfares from Dublin to Alicante. Thanks to Ryanair, just 40 euro will allow for a weekend of reminiscing with my host family.
When I reflect on my time in Spain, there are moments that not only do I cherish as memories, but have also changed many of my perspectives. During November of last year when the 2008 presidential election was taking place, I remember picking up a newspaper at the University of Alicante before election day. The front page read: “Milliones de Americanos decidirán el futuro del Mundo Mañana” (Millions of Americans will decide the future of the world tomorrow). This was one of the many defining moments that will remain clear in my mind forever. I never thought a newspaper headline would make such an impression on my worldly views. Perhaps this is part of what fascinates me about being abroad; you never know what to expect or how you can be changed.
Like Spain before, I am uncertain what will await me when I arrive in Dublin this summer. However, I am ready to absorb the local culture and tradition, while gaining a global perspective of journalism. Although my internship may restrict me from traveling much, Alicante, London, Amsterdam and Barcelona are also on my hit list. Before I know it, I will be back with a plethora of stories to tell.
I truly feel this is only the beginning of my adventures abroad. When I think about the mystery Dublin holds, I become consumed with eagerness to see it all. The only thing in question for now is: where to next?
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