LIZA LEONARD- I have been in Spain for about six weeks now. At this point in my semester abroad (about one-third of the way through), I am ecstatic to be here. I feel full. I feel confident. I feel myself learning, gathering up experiences and bits and pieces of myself. Two mindsets that have helped me feel this happy and excited about my time abroad are the surrendering of expectations and confidence in awkward situations.
Surrendering of expectations.
I could have anticipated what Spain would be like. I could have created an image of my time abroad based on the slew of advice I got from friends, from the hundreds of Facebook and Instagram photos I had seen, and from the travel blogs and books I read. Rather, I accepted the fact that I would not know anything about being in the physical place and the genuine feel of the culture until I got here. I could have created a set of expectations about what I would enjoy and what I would learn here, but I decided not to.
This mindset has been allowing me to live in the moment, to experience things when they come, and as they are. Before coming here, I only knew cities in Spain from filling out maps for my Spanish homework. I had never heard of Alcalá de Henares, where I live now. By accepting that I would not know the outcomes of my travels and studies during my time here, I have made room for the wonderment and learning that I am filled with on a daily basis.
I am learning that traveling is all about attitude. I am constantly shocked by the beauty of each city that I visit, and by the tangible feelings of history and tradition. Each place is amazing, but it is the attitude of the travelers that makes a trip great. Personally, I find that it is most helpful to have a positive attitude and to not expect for everything to go perfectly. I don’t expect to see every single important monument. I don’t expect to stick to a calculated budget or adhere to a specific schedule. This letting go of control allows me to enjoy the time that I do have there to soak up the atmosphere.
While my travels have been all about the letting go of expectations, my daily life in Spain has been all about confidence. Even though I do not have perfect fluency in Spanish, I do not let that intimidate me from making the most out of my time here. I have found ways to confidently ask for the type of coffee that I want, how to ask where something is, and basically how to have a conversation with someone even if I have to ask them to repeat something or what a specific word means.
I especially have to depend on my confidence in my extracurricular classes. I take rock-climbing at the University of Alcala sports center twice a week, and take yoga in the center of Alcala twice a week as well. In these situations, I have been challenged to meet new people in a local Spanish setting as well as to listen to instructions with specific, obscure vocabulary and give feedback. In my rock-climbing class, a sport in which there is a lot of standing around and talking while belaying, I have had to make friends with people who have taken this class together since September. Luckily, the instructor is super friendly and patient (he has a thick Andalusian accent) and we laugh and joke when we are totally at a loss of how to explain something to each other. Being calm and confident has allowed me to not be worried about these situations, but rather happy to be in them and to be learning something new.