A rush of panic raced through me when my plane landed in Valencia, Spain. The excitement from flying across the Atlantic had passed, and a new fear of being in a country where I did not speak the language set in. I never thought I’d be able to study abroad; it didn’t seem compatible with my majors and minors (computer science, biology, and chemistry). However, since the Levine Scholars Program encourages scholars to study abroad as much as possible, I thought I would explore the possibility to go for an entire semester. I chose the program I was enrolled in Valencia because it offered many biology classes that I could take for my minor. I also wanted to learn Spanish, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.
The first hours in Valencia were a blur. Adjusting to Spanish eating times, navigating public transport, and learning how to communicate in the very few Spanish words I knew was difficult at first. However, looking back, I am both proud and surprised at how I got by those first few days. Back home, I never would have had the courage to walk up to a stranger to ask if the bus was going towards the university. I would have never gone on a trip without planning every single detail. But, being in a new country forces you to adapt and grow into a more confident person that is more willing to explore new things. Part of the adventure is hopping on the wrong bus that’s going in the exact opposite direction you’re supposed to be headed in. I’ve learned to laugh at my mistakes instead of stressing about each thing that goes wrong.
One of the best parts of studying abroad is the ability to travel around to a bunch of new places, both within Spain and Europe. A huge perk to studying in Europe is the cheap travel by train, bus, and plane within countries and to nearby ones. My favorite trip was visiting Paris. Whether it be sitting on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower or sitting in a bistro on the banks of the Seine, Paris was an unforgettable magical experience that will stay with me for years.
Riding camels and racing through sand dunes in the Sahara desert in Morocco was a close second though. If going to the Sahara desert isn’t convincing enough, stargazing in the middle of the desert is just as beautiful to the night skies in Wyoming that we saw during NOLS.
Looking back, my major takeaway from this semester was saying yes to things. Say yes to being uncomfortable in new situations. Have a day off in the middle of the week? Take a 50-minute train to a quiet little town, explore some cool castles, eat some good food, and always have room for dessert (preferably gelato). Another important thing I’ve learned is to not only romanticize the big things in life but also the everyday things. I’ve always dreamed of traveling the world, experiencing new cultures, and eating the best food every country has to offer. Romanticizing this experience has made it all the more meaningful. That being said, I’m also very excited to come back to Charlotte and romanticize all the things I’ve missed while abroad. I’m looking forward to going on hikes with friends, trying new restaurants in Uptown, and taking the light rail to new areas of the city. As I enter the second semester of my junior year, I want to make the most of my time at Charlotte and with the LSP community.