A time of my life

Hayley Larson studied abroad with API in Salamanca, Spain. She currently serves as an API Peer Mentor on her home campus of Grand Valley State University.

 

The lights twinkle above me, a thousand winking eyes flying skyward with my hopes and dreams swirling around them. People laugh and giggle and hug and cry all around me. A hundred voices. A hundred emotions. All of them perfuming the air with their visions of the future. The excitement in the air transcends all language.

I am in Spain. In Salamanca.

I am in the United States. In Grand Rapids.

One thing I have come to realize since returning to the U.S. is the importance of incorporating my “go-get-‘em” attitude into my daily life, post-Spain. It is too easy to get caught up in the self-pity stage any time anyone brings up my time abroad. Yes, it was a wonderful time in my life.

But it wasn’t the time of my life.

There is certainly a sense of the fantastical when I reminisce about Salamanca and the time I spent there. The wonderful memories and the embarrassing recollections all help to make up what studying in Spain is for me. I was constantly engaged in the culture while abroad, actively seeking out ways to integrate into the host-cultures, both living in Salamanca and traveling throughout Europe.

It was a combination of accidental guitar concerts in old Spanish cathedrals, local cheese and grapes from tiny French markets, walk along the dimly-lit Douro river in Oporto, drinks in dingy small-town Hungarian bowling alleys, photos of fluffy sheep silhouetted against the drizzly, grey Welsh sky with friends and strangers that make up the fondest memories I have of being abroad.

And who’s to say I can’t keep up these spontaneous, “simple” things while in my home state, Michigan, more specifically, my university town, Grand Rapids?

No one.

In other words, engage yourself.

Every day I act as though I am studying abroad in my own city. I search out the art festivals. I attend the symphonies. I eat at the taco stands. I connect with the community.

And preserving these actions in Michigan has made all the difference in defining who I am and who I want to be in a global world. Where relationships with people on a personal level are the roads we must pave to reach a common bond we can all be happy and proud to support. Together.

So Spain:

It was a time of my life.

An incredible, self-defining time through which I’ve come to find things about myself and the world that I truly appreciate, and things I really wish to change.

And that makes it the best time of all.

To follow Hayley’s blog – Sopa del Dia blog – click here.

 

 

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