As a young girl, studying abroad in Spain has always been one of my dreams. In Fall 2021, I was finally able to make that dream a reality. While many people emphasize the importance of learning to live on your own when you are abroad, I was able to have both; there were of course times where I was on my own but I also had one of my closest friends from HC with me in Granada as well, Melanie. Having her as a support system during my journey abroad was definitely important because I knew that I was never truly alone.
Studying abroad certainly changed my mindset on many things. I realized the importance of independence in all aspects. For instance, before traveling abroad, I started my first real job as a server at a restaurant and saved up so that money would not be an issue in Spain. Being able to rely on myself in that way was extremely important for me because it was a burden that my parents did not have to deal with.
The classes of course were also different from the normal HC classes. There was this sense of openness and lots of discussion rather than the professors lecturing a whole lot. Fortunately, I was able to experience two aspects of the Universidad de Granada. I took 3 classes at the Centro de Lenguas Modernas where all my classes were in Spanish and I took one class at the Facultad de Filosofia y Letras where my class was in English. This allowed me to fully experience both dynamics of classes in Granada. I was intrigued to see how I would feel in each class because while Spanish is my first language, I was not used to having 3 different classes in Spanish. However, I quickly fell in love with all my courses and was astounded at the level of inclusiveness from all of my professors.
One of the most impactful academic experiences abroad was completing the ICP Project required by Holy Cross. The objective behind the project was immersing myself in the Spanish culture and reflecting on my observations and learnings. I decided to tutor two 6 year old girls, Alejandra and Michaela. For the majority of my time with them, we practiced speaking in English and I taught them new words that they wanted to learn. Being with them was an amazing experience because I was able to see how progressive the Spanish culture really was. Both Alejandra and Michaela were raised with the understanding that they could choose any profession they would like to. For them, their advantage was having parents who were professors at the University. Their parents emphasized the importance of education and it was reflected on the future goals of both girls. Understanding the Spanish culture was important for me because it served as a form of guidance for my course: La Imagen de la Mujer en los Siglos XVIX-XX. Based on my experiences with Alejandra and Michaela, I was able to offer my own perspective on different themes in the Spanish culture and why the image of women in Spain has stayed the same or changed today. Having this experience was important to me because it was like having CBL but abroad. Had it not been for my time as a Community-Based Learning Intern, I would not have been able to connect my observations outside of the classroom to my learning inside the classroom. This was crucial for me because it only made my time abroad even more meaningful. It also allowed me to leave Spain as a changed and improved student and person as a whole. If anything, embracing myself in this new culture only strengthened my ability to adapt to new people and surroundings and certainly aided my service as a first time Intern coordinator with the WPS transition program.
While I was fascinated in learning more about the Spanish culture and traveling to different places, there was also always a sense of sadness deep in my heart because I knew that I was visiting places that my parents had never seen. Being raised by immigrant parents, I was constantly reminded of the mobility barrier that was present in my family. My father could never visit his family in Guatemala because that would mean him not being able to come back to the US. My mother was also not able to visit Peru for the same reasons. At the core of my study abroad experience was breaking the barriers that society had set for my parents. I understood that me traveling to all these different places was a win for them as well because it meant that their sacrifices were worth it. They both crossed the border to ensure that their future children would have better opportunities in life than they ever did. As I stood by the view from Santa Maria Maior in Lisbon,Portugal, I was reminded of my parents’ journey to the States and the content they must feel to know that their daughter was exploring places they have never been able to.
If I learned one thing from traveling abroad, it’s the importance of staying true to my roots and identity especially when there are others from completely different cultures and backgrounds. If there is anything I learned from CBL it’s the importance of being vulnerable and entering new chapters with an optimistic and open mind set. As I conclude my junior year, my commitment to immerse myself in the Worcester community has only strengthened. It has also inspired my decision to live off campus next year at the Edge Union Station. My hope is that I will be able to get to know the Worcester community at a deeper level.