What do Amanda Gorman, Ang Lee, Harper Lee, and Vera Wang have in common? All four studied overseas! Amanda Gorman studied in Spain during her junior year at Harvard. Filmmaker Ang Lee from Taiwan studied in New York. Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill A Mockingbird studied a semester at the University of Oxford. Designer Vera Wang from New York spent a semester in France at the Sorbonne. What is it about these adventures that sets the stage for achievement?
Numerous studies show that several months’ experience in another country alters us and paves the way for our success. Students who study abroad are more likely to finish school and find a job upon graduation. That was my experience. When I left for Spain I was a junior without a declared major. My interests were split among biology, anthropology, history, philosophy and Spanish. A friend working in Germany suggested I study abroad, so we could meet up in France. Our conversation that day was a watershed in my life.
I had traveled very little on my own when I spent a semester abroad in Toledo, perhaps only 100 miles by bus or train in the US. By the end of the four months away I had taken the train across Europe, 2013 k (1251 mi) from Germany to Spain and back. My planning and flexible thinking muscles were exercised in those voyages. Those skills have helped me to get across town on public transportation or sketch out the year we spent in Chile. What I learned about myself, that I am able to overcome the obstacles of language barriers, new locations, unfamiliar cultures, contributes to my belief that I can solve problems. When I try something new; I believe I can, I believe I will, and if I cannot, I can choose to try again or laugh at my mistakes and try another path.
I am extremely thankful I had the opportunity to learn Spanish in Toledo. It was more than a language acquisition experience, it changed me in ways I am grateful for every day.
This transformative travel experience has led me to write a book; Supergringa in Spain: A Coming of Age Memoir.
I’ve sent my memoir to a professional editor, in preparation for sending it out to literary agents. Next week, I will receive her comments and spend the week editing the manuscript. I will check in at Fake Flamenco once a day to say hello.
What’s an experience that changed your life for the better? ¡Olé! –Rebecca