1. To Be Lost. A Lot.
This is not necessarily an ode to the complexity and unfamiliarity of another country but more of a statement on the type of person I am. Even in Clearwater, Florida, the city in which I took my first steps and graduated high school and waved goodbye to my parents as I set out for the University of Florida, I am still the queen of U-turns and poor directions. Though I fear confusion on the streets of Valencia, Spain, and the discomfort of not having a GPS, I have decided to morph my directional ineptitude into an adventure. I will not panic each time I am lost, but rather, I will accept it as an avenue for greater exploration and spontaneity in a city that will be my home from May 4th to June 16th. That being said, this could be a terrible choice. It is possible that I will end up facing Spain’s strangest; however, I am willing to accept the challenge. It’s about time this personality flaw became a benefit. Besides, true adventure is never a product of planning.
2. To Be Completely and Utterly Humbled in My Spanish Skills
I have been on my Spanish high-horse for far too long, and it’s time for me to be humbled. I began taking Spanish classes in seventh grade, and by my senior year of high school I was in a Spanish 6 class of five students. When I arrived at UF, I knew I could not abandon my Spanish career. Not only had I already dedicated years of effort to the subject, but I loved it. I absolutely loved the language. I have always worked extra in my Spanish classes – extra reading, extra practice, extra participation – and I have recently developed a confidence in my language skills that was missing before I came to UF. I am prepared to have that confidence shattered, picked up, and taped back together. I know that advanced Spanish classes are mere introductory-level courses when it comes to real-world communication, and I anticipate the shock upon arriving in Spain that tells me I am not as fluent as I think I am. That being said, this awareness will force me to improve. I intend to repair my broken confidence through constant conversation with locals and avoiding English conversation, even among fellow classmates. This study abroad will push me, and I am ready to push back.
3. To Be Uncomfortable
Because who has ever matured while staying in their comfort zone? I know the schedule of Spain involves late nights and early mornings. I know the food will be different and communication will require extensive effort. I know my limits will be pushed and my flexibility will be challenged. And I can’t wait. The purpose of cultural exploration is to abandon your own boundaries and comforts and accept someone else’s. The purpose is not to view a culture’s intricacies as if through a glass window, but rather to submerge in them like a pool with unknown depts. So when you see a Floridian girl wandering around the streets of Valencia looking entirely out of place and way out of her league, leave her be. Offer nothing more than acceptance for her mistakes and advise if she asks. Let me be uncomfortable. If I’m not uncomfortable, I think that means I’m doing it wrong.
4. To Be Engaged
Now, this isn’t a cry for a Cheetah Girls experience. I have no intention to fall in love with a Spanish man who could play guitar for me while I rock some animal print pants. Instead, I expect to be mentally engaged. I expect to try all the things I normally would shy away from, to experience this trip as it is happening rather than to experience it through photographs after I am back to the States. I want to leave my phone at home and explore, liberated from distraction, absorbing every minute detail of this foreign world. I want to give every effort to my school work and the language and the cultural nuances and the people, and I want to view the world with my own eyes rather than through the screen of my iPhone. I want to be engaged, and I want to unconditionally and unapologetically embrace this experience.