I was ten or eleven when I saw my sister getting ready for her summer abroad in Barcelona. Her packed suitcase stood under a vision board featuring pictures of Spanish beaches and architecture still high on her wall like a north star whose direction stayed true. Sad to be losing my best friend but excited to see her dreams realized, I remember putting together a chest of supplies I thought she might need. I scavenged my room for extra notebooks and pens and Barbie makeup. She only kept the card I made her on a sheet of printer paper. I didn’t yet realize how impactful it was to have an up-close example of a Latina exploring the world, a Latina who was taking charge of her education. Before I even started thinking about what to put in my suitcases, I knew I would carry the memory of her courage and strength through every step of my journey.
Spain was always a dream, a wish, a hope. After the thrill of finding out I was accepted into the program, I was wary of setting too many expectations in an effort to avoid any crushing disappointment. COVID-19 cases were on the rise as the tourism industry opened its gates to the public. More and more people were applying for passports, delaying the processing timelines. When I first applied for my passport, I chose not to have it expedited to save a couple of extra dollars. Everything would be ruined if my passport didn’t come on time. The deadline for submitting my passport to the program loomed large, and I found myself scrambling to make phone calls and find loopholes when my mailbox was still empty after three months of waiting. PRO TIP: If there is any possibility of delays in processing, pay the extra fee, but even after the initial application for your passport is submitted and in process, you can pay the fee and have it expedited. When I received the stark white envelope, my trip became real and so did my fears.
Even after taking all the prerequisite courses, I feared that my Spanish wasn’t strong enough to carry me through a foreign country. I was nervous to be leaving my family and friends who have never been out of reach before. I was afraid of my naivety and impulsiveness and the trouble they might get me in. My doubt and anxiety convinced me that somehow something would go wrong, that this opportunity wasn’t meant for me. I never felt more unprepared. (How do you even pack for 5 months?!) That’s when I took a step back to find my north star again. I thought of my sister. I replayed the memory of her waving at me from the airport, suitcase in hand, nervous but brave enough to go through with it anyway. I remembered my purpose for applying to this program in the first place – to build a stronger relationship between language, my culture, and myself with a kind patience. My fear wasn’t a hidderance but an asset. It told me I was headed towards the right kind of discomfort that leads to growth. It told me that jumping in means taking things one step at a time. With a grounded sense of direction and a hungry ambition, I was able to find in myself the same courage I admired in my sister.
Whether it’s the security of a motivating memory or a reassuring call with Temple’s Study Abroad Office, there are so many resources at your fingertips to offer advice or help answer your questions.