by Kyla McLaughlin
When deciding where to study abroad, I prioritized three things: going to a Spanish-speaking country, taking all my classes in Spanish and living with a homestay family. I found a program that met all of my criteria in Seville, a beautiful city in the south of Spain. Being in Seville has provided me with the immersion I sought. I have a thoughtful Spanish homestay mother, listen to flurries of conversation on the street and speak and write in Spanish in the classroom and at home. I chose a wonderful home for the semester. Before my adventure even started, though, I spent 10 days in the English countryside, and it was there that I realized what I wanted to do most while abroad — travel.
Midterms at the University of Seville were last week. Had I been at Kenyon, I would have decompressed afterwards with tea and some Netflix in my dorm. Instead, I hopped on a plane to Geneva to visit a friend. I liked seeing her and listening to and attempting to understand French while sampling Swiss chocolate and walking around the city. surrounded by the Alps. The escape was a nice break from stress, as well as a look into one of the wealthiest cities in the world.
In addition to Switzerland and my trip through southern England, I have visited London and Morocco and travelled throughout southern Spain. From the first written constitution in Cádiz to the oldest bullfighting ring in Ronda to the mosque-cathedral in Córdoba, I’ve gotten quite a taste of Spain, a country rich with history. I am living in a melting pot of history and learn something new about the country every day.
After six years of being apart, I was reunited with my childhood best friend in London. We planned nothing and simply went with the flow. The hustle and bustle, the whoosh of the tube, the skyscrapers and the lights reminded me of my home in New York City, which was the perfect remedy for feeling homesick.
Unlike the familiar modernity of the city of London, Morocco’s cities were truly a new world for me. Chefchaouen’s blue buildings, the hundreds of cats, the friendly locals all amplified my experience. The Moroccans I met spoke multiple languages fluently, including French and Arabic. Fortunately, my ability to speak Spanish and English came in handy. The most memorable part of the trip occurred as our bus was leaving Tangier and driving onto the ferry. Moroccan teenagers crawled underneath the bus and latched on with bare hands, hoping to stay attached until we reached Spain. I had seen the news, watched immigrants traverse countries in search of new lives, but only on television. I never expected to see the immigration crisis up close.
Although traveling is exhausting, these experiences have provided me with glimpses of multiple worlds. Weekend trips provide only tastes of cities and towns, but each place I have seen is different. Each has its own charm, its own identity.
I chose the right place to study abroad to further my Spanish education, but living in Europe has also allowed me to see a different piece of the world, discover new cultures and histories, similar and different from my own, wander through new landscapes and take my studies outside of the classroom. Each adventure helps color my time abroad and helps me understand this part of the world better. Next up is Dublin, and I can’t wait.