Everyone remembers the first time, right? You were probably a little anxious, maybe even worried about what it would be like. After all, it’s normal to fear the unknown. Apprehensive, but barely able to contain your excitement, you were ready to embark on this new journey. You waited a long time for this moment.
My first time was definitely the perfect mixture of all of that. Butterflies, nerves, excited anticipation. I had technically been out of the country before on family vacations to Canada and the Caribbean, but was too young to venture out on my own. Finally, at 16 years old, I was ready to get my first taste of an international adventure.
After taking four years of Spanish classes, my heart was set on heading to a country that’s language and customs intrigued me. I was eager to put everything I had learned to use, but I didn’t want to just ride around on a tour and see it. I wanted to fully immerse myself by living in it.
After much research, and with the encouragement of my parents (shout out mom and dad), I signed up for a month-long summer program in Southern Spain. My home base would be Seville, or Sevilla in Spanish, the capital of Spain’s Andalusia region. I had always been pretty independent, so though I was a bit nervous, the longing for my first trip abroad was much greater. The remaining days of 10th grade couldn’t fly by fast enough.
From the moment we arrived at our new home (a small “mom and pop” hotel), I knew I would be forever changed. If I had to describe my first experience abroad in one word, I’d use mesmerizing. From my classes at the University of Seville to the incredible city itself, I was completely blown away by my surroundings the entire month abroad. The cobblestone streets, the incredible architecture of both landmarks and ordinary buildings, the laid back but some how simultaneously electric culture, the fusion of music and food floating throughout the city – I was genuinely mesmerized by everything around me. With every step I took, I found myself overwhelmed by a sincere sense of appreciation and humbled thankfulness. It would be an understatement to say I felt truly blessed to not only explore but temporarily live in such a breathtaking city.
Just knowing how many centuries of history stood before me as I walked around or passed The Alcazar, La Giralda/Seville Cathedral, the old Jewish Quarter (Barrio Santa Cruz), La Plaza de Espana and so many others, had a profound impact on what would be important to me in life moving forward. I tried to picture all the thousands of travelers and locals alike who had previously walked amongst these architectural and cultural feats, and those who would pass them by just as I did in the months and years to come. For a second even, it made me feel almost insignificant. What would be the history I want to leave behind? Could I leave anything that will be admired for centuries to come? How can I make a blip on the proverbial radar of life?
It was in Seville that I decided I could not go through life without seeing what other places were like. On the weekends, the program brought us to various cities throughout the South of Spain including Grenada, Cordoba, Cadiz, Marbella and even Madrid (where I eventually ended up studying abroad for five months in college). I was absolutely hooked and determined to make these experiences a priority as my life progressed.
A switch inside of me turned on and a true thirst for knowledge emerged. At the conclusion of my first trip abroad, traveling virtually became a basic need, and has been pretty much unquenchable ever since.