A semester in review

So, how was my semester?

I turned 21

PicMonkey Collagelondon

London

Toured so many cathedrals and castles that they have meshed into one

PicMonkey Collagecathedrals

Barcelona, Toledo, Madrid, Segovia

Watched sunsets that took my breath away

PicMonkey Collagesunset

Balearic Islands, Portugal, Granada

And literally been blown away

PicMonkey Collagewind

Portugal, Granada

Surrounded myself with some wonderful people

PicMonkey Collagefriends

Top center with Bea, bottom center with Carmen

DSC00870

Questioned my values

PicMonkey Collagebeliefs

Semana Santa, Franco’s tomb, graffiti, Anne Frank House in Amsterdam

Which sometimes aren’t this clear

PicMonkey Collageclear

Stayed out until 7 in the morning

PicMonkey Collageclub

And was hungry for adventure

PicMonkey Collageadventure

Portugal, Granada, Ireland, Madrid

I’ve grown up in the most loving, nurturing, and healthy family. I’m obviously biased in this regard, but I would consider my upbringing as close to ideal as one could get. In retrospect, my parents were able to provide me everything I could have ever wanted or needed, while simultaneously instilling in me a constant sense of humility, strong work ethic, and gratitude. That being said, I felt sheltered. My primary goal in studying abroad was to prove that I could take care of myself independently. That I could manage my life by myself and for myself, and no one else. That in doing so, I could perhaps finally independently discover a better balance between pleasing others and investing in my own mental and physical wellbeing. My parents followed movie ratings to a tee, helped me with school projects until high school, and let me lean on them every step of the way. I’m not complaining – they truly lovingly offered me every opportunity possible to set me up for success, but I didn’t even know how to do the dishes or fix a button until winter break of this year. I never learned how to clean a bathroom. I always joked with my mom that she was my personal maid, cook, seamstress, shopper, therapist, secretary, tutor, and cheerleader all in one. There came a point, though, where I needed to start wearing those hats. Where I needed to start thinking and acting independently. Where I needed to burst out of the bubble of my perfect upbringing and the Bucknell campus, where the majority of things were/are provided for and come easily.

This is what the study abroad experience has provided me. A chance to make my own decisions, for myself and no one else. A chance to experience, on my own volition, more new things in the past 3 months than in my entire 21 years combined. As silly as this example is, I have willingly eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every single day of my life because I couldn’t think of a reason to change if what I knew was easy and comfortable. Why mix it up? And to think that I wondered for so long why it felt as if I were existing and going through the motions — even dormant –, rather than living. Yes, I’ve visited more monuments and journeyed more miles than I can count. I can without a doubt affirm that in moving beyond my comfort level, I’ve traveled even deeper within myself, though. This has been a common theme of discussion within our group: the metaphor of “traveling” farther within ourselves than in physical distances. That no matter how far I have literally moved, my mind has undoubtedly journeyed greater.

I am prepared for a difficult transition when I come home. It will be bittersweet in every sense of the word, given that there are so many wonderful, unforgettable aspects of Granada that I am leaving behind. However, I find comfort in knowing that when I get off of the plane in a couple weeks, I can say with all of my heart that I have changed for nothing but the better after this experience. There are so many tangible  things that I will miss here — the breathtaking views and monuments, the food, my host family. On the other hand, words cannot explain my eagerness to not only see loved ones so soon, but to also bring home with me even more of the intangible. I am so excited by the prospect of applying all that I have learned and become to my normal life at Bucknell.

Exposure to new beliefs, attitudes, and ways of thinking and living has given me broad perspective. Traveling opens your eyes and heightens your senses. The world suddenly becomes a lot bigger, and you a lot smaller. This semester was not always easy; in branching out of my comfort zone, I was forced to think twice about what it means to identify as an American. Traveling is a two-way learning process; I saw my country through the eyes of others, while also representing it myself. This experience has truly given me a different outlook on life and problem solving. I’ve gained a greater perspective and understanding of events in my past that I was never able to either make peace with or comprehend. I was forced, in the best possible way, to question values that I have always blindly accepted without second thought. I am receiving a top notch education at an institution like Bucknell, but within the confines of its gorgeous campus, one can only learn so much. Traveling is one heck of an expensive addiction, but as we say here, vale la pena  – it’s worth the pain. The more I travel, the more I reflect on how much I still have yet to see, even within my own country. I’m hooked.

I’ve felt completely overwhelmed the last couple weeks, overcome by gratitude and the enormity and impact of this experience. I am so blessed. I want to thank with every ounce of my being my family, for being so loving and supportive always – you mean the world to me. Carmen and Bea, thank you for providing me the most nurturing environment in which to learn and take this in. I could not have stayed with more wonderful people. Emily, thank you for being an amazing roommate and being there through some of the most hilarious and strange situations, one delicious meal at a time – I cannot wait to bring this friendship back to Bucknell. Professor McKinney and Fátima, thank you for being such comfortable and supportive resources, and for facilitating our learning process here to the degree that you did, both in and out of the classroom. And to all of the wonderful people that I am so lucky to have become close with this semester – I can’t believe I never met you before we came, but I can’t wait to return eagerly to Bucknell for senior year, having shared these past 5 unforgettable months together.

And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” - Pico Iyer

Un abrazo final,

Amanda

One Response to “A semester in review”

  1. Lori Richman says:

    I have really enjoyed reading your blogs this semester. I know from reading my own son’s blogs what a fabulous experience this has been and what a wonderful way to learn about yourself and another culture. Thanks for sharing all your pictures and thoughts. Good luck senior year and keep traveling!

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