Alcalá de Henares, thank you. Thank you for sharing your beauty with me and being the first city I have lived in outside of the United States. Thank you for giving me the experience of a life time. Thank you for allowing me to live in the city with the best host family. Thank you for giving me the travel bug.
In 2014, I took a leap of faith in college and decided to study abroad my sophomore year for a semester. I didn’t have a passport and I never left the States. I was never more than a few hours away from my family, so going an ocean away wouldn’t be easy. But I did it. I signed my acceptance letter, bought a passport, went to Chicago and got my visa.
The process wasn’t easy. I panicked. I didn’t know what I was doing. I just knew I was going. August 26, 2014, I boarded my flight to Spain. I got out of the airport, clueless of what we were doing, and barely spoke Spanish. But I was there. I wasn’t going home anytime soon, and this is where I would call home for the next four months.
Let me tell you, I was in love! I had the biggest honeymoon stage in Madrid. I couldn’t get over the beauty of the city, the culture, the language, nor the fact that I was in a different country. I was amazed at everything. There were the difficulties of adapting, and it wasn’t easy, but I loved the challenge. This was the first bite to my travel bug.
Our week of fun was over, and it was time to meet our host families. Culture shock is real, but you will overcome it, just give it a few days. I panicked again, and didn’t have my parents, but I knew I had to adapt. It wasn’t easy, I had to continue to think positive, and it changed me. So thank you, Alcalá, for pushing me to adapt to new things.
Once I got over the hump of culture shock, I experienced so much more than I thought I would. I got the urge to experience the honeymoon and culture shock stage all over again. I booked a flight to Porto, Portugal, it wasn’t too far but I wanted to see something new. This was the second bite to the travel bug.
Never would I have thought, that at the age of 19, I would begin to travel throughout Europe on my own. I booked flights to 6 countries, train tickets to 4 cities, and stayed in hostels with random people I didn’t know. This wasn’t me when I left the States, but I couldn’t imagine doing it a different way.
On December 22, 2014, I returned back to the States, but slowly realized that I didn’t fit in. I missed the feeling of being free. I found myself in Spain, and I discovered my dream of experiencing new cultures, meeting new people, and never staying in one spot.
This led to me applying for a month long trip to the Netherlands, the next bite of the travel bug. My first solo adventure, which gave me the confidence to see new places. I took the leap of faith and went to Cuba, a country barely touched by US Citizens since the 60’s. This wasn’t enough for me, and I impulsively bought a ticket to Brazil and New Zealand.
I haven’t stopped living my dream of visiting all 196 countries, and I want to encourage you to get out and experience a new culture. If it wasn’t for my leap of faith to study abroad, I wouldn’t be were I am today, and I wouldn’t have the experiences that I will have the rest of my life.