“The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.”

Study Abroad Gap Year Programs in Salamanca, Spain - Plaza Mayor

Salamanca's beautiful Plaza Mayor at night

One warm spring morning I found myself leafing through the New York Times before going to get my teeth cleaned. Most of the paper was consumed with war, politics and bitter sentiment about the world we live in. I was about to graduate from high school, close one chapter in my life in order to start a new one, and sitting in that dentist’s office I was in no mood for some paper to change my chipper and extremely positive outlook on life. I mean I am not saying that I didn’t understand the world was big and bad, but I was excited about graduating, college and just life in general. But as I was about to close the paper, leaving all the bad news on those big pages, I came across an article titled “It’s not about you.” I almost laughed out loud. I was about to close the paper in order to preserve my naïve state of mind and there was the paper screaming for me to read further.

“The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.” There was something about this simple line that clicked. The article talked about how another year of graduates would go out into the world, find jobs, go back to school, get important degrees, make money, move into a small apartment in Manhattan, get married and have kids. But the author urged that the only way for these new graduates to find themselves, and all that comes along with that, they must first lose themselves. In America most students live a pretty over-structured, over-planned, over-programmed day-to-day existence. We are part of the most supervised generation in American history. But after graduating we will enter an unstructured, multi-dimensional, an ever-interconnected and unpredictable world. I needed to lose myself.

Study Abroad Gap Year Programs in Salamanca, Spain - Cathedral

Many people might think coming to Spain I wanted to learn Spanish, make some new friends, try some paella and travel Europe. Trust me, I wanted to do all of that and more. But when I left the airport in Boston for a little town in the northwest of Spain called Salamanca (that I knew literally nothing about): my goal was to lose myself.

Oh and how I lost myself!

I have gotten literally lost so many times I can’t start to count. Salamanca is relatively small, but there was something about the small streets and lack of streets signs that causes me to walk in circles. I have gotten lost in the gothic courter of Barcelona, the Christmas market in Prague and the blue streets of Morocco.

Speaking Spanish everyday all day has made me feel completely lost. I have gotten so tongue-tied up with Spanish that most of the time trying to find a simple English word confuses me. The first month my brain would hurt so badly, after 4 hours of Spanish classes, “intercambios” and every meal with my host family, that siesta time was a must. But then there comes the pure joy of being so lost in the language that I was able to spend nights out speaking only Spanish.

I have most definitely lost myself in Spanish culture. It was not easy adjusting to dinner at 10pm and the fact that everything is closed from 2-4 for lunch. Spain definitely has its own way of doing things. But when I was able to let myself go and get lost in the culture, take a nap, eat tapas, and sit in the Plaza Mayor, I enjoyed myself more.

I have lost myself in conversations about Spanish politics with my host dad. I have seen places and experienced things that can never be taught in a classroom. I have met people who have enabled me to lose myself. I have seen my life at home in a new light and I have seen things that people wait a lifetime to glance at. I have lost a part of myself in Salamanca and just like the article said, it has allowed me to find myself. I also know, that when I leave, I will take parts of Salamanca with me for the rest of my life.

My gap year is just starting and I can already tell you, without a doubt, it is one of the best decisions I have made for myself. Yes, it’s not all easy and fun and yes, there were times I wanted my own bed and English. But with less then 2 weeks left in Salamanca, I can’t imagine my life without losing myself in a world very far from my own.

Study Abroad Gap Year Programs in Salamanca, Spain - Roman Bridge

The Roman Bridge


This post was written by Zoe F., an Aspire by API student who is currently spending her gap semester in Salamanca, Spain.

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