My Study Abroad Experience, Part I

Before I started college, I knew that I wanted to study abroad. It wasn’t a matter of desire. It was more like a necessity – a pulse thumped hard within my system and refused to calm itself until I took action. My captivation with different cultures and languages mixed with my adventurous spirit that was instilled by my annual childhood family vacations tugged and refused to let me go. I began researching early, looking into my college’s study abroad office and third party companies that offered international programs. So many destinations thrilled me: Latin America, Australia, Japan, Italy, France – hell, even New York looked good if I couldn’t get myself out of the country. When I took a Spanish literature class for my minor, I heard about my professor’s announcement: she was to lead a study abroad program in Spain that summer. I was immediately hooked. I never visited her during office hours, but I found myself one day waiting for her out in the hall to ask about the program. She, being the warmest, kindest professor I’ve had so far, welcomed me into her office with a huge smile. This was perfect – I’ve always daydreamed about paellas, flamenco and Madrid’s breathtaking architecture, and this was the chance for me to see them all in action. Plus, I’d get to finally improve my Spanish; I had taken Spanish classes since I was in the 8th grade, yet I was still terrible in speaking it. Warm breezy wind during a summer in Spain. Just the thought of it made me sigh, as if I were happy and full after devouring a satisfying roast dinner.

When I left my professor’s office that day, everything I imagined crumbled into bits and pieces. Like many times when it posed as a problem, my scooter was the main worry. Spain, despite its beauty and magic, was old. Its rich history made it special, but for me that meant stairs, bumpy roads, no ramps, no elevators, and no accessible buses or taxis. Alternative ways of getting around probably existed, but some destinations just had absolutely no ways for any person with a wheelchair to enjoy the complete site. My professor explained to me that the Spaniards treated their buildings like art ­– to install a ramp would be to modify a masterpiece. I slowly nodded my head as she carefully explained to me how Spain was so different than California, but the prospects of no, no, no began to bombard my mind. I couldn’t believe it; I gathered those broken pieces of my dreams and hoped that my professor could attach them as I went to talk to her two more times about the program. Surely my college could help me figure out something. But I learned that my professor lacked the funding to bring a teaching assistant along, thereby intensifying her worries about taking care of a group of excited college students abroad for the summer alone. I couldn’t say anything. I could research ways of getting around in Spain, but I had to realize that this wasn’t the opportune chance for me to do it.

“Sad” didn’t even justify how I felt. It’s always terrible when you feel helpless, especially over something you’re born with that you can’t fix. A myriad of situations like these made me often sit on my bed, wondering why, why, why, until I grew so frustrated that I burst into tears. But this gnawing feeling I had inside of me – this desire of mine that felt so much like a necessity – led me to research different programs from another college, one that I didn’t even attend.

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