On the Threshold

Cailey Oehler
January 10, 2014

Preparing to leave for Salamanca has been characterized by a new, distinctive feeling of anticipation that isn’t quite like any I’ve experienced before: a sort of self-precluding nervousness.  The prospect of setting off with all of my most important belongings (I invested in a new 70L pack as my big bag and I’ll also have a daypack with all of my valuables as a carry-on which, at 26L, is still big enough to hold all I’ll need for weekend excursions) and immersing myself in a culture I’ve never experienced before-my only European experience to date was a weeklong trip to the UK in high school and was brief and non-immersive, which I remember as my classmates and I being herded about as a group from one major tourist site to the next and spending most of our time taking photos out the tinted windows of tour buses- would seem daunting if I were doing it on my own.

But the reason my potential anxiety can’t take hold is that I’m not setting off on my own. The Off-Campus Study Office at my college helped me find the best program for me, and my professors also provided support and advice through that preliminary process. After I decided to apply to IES Salamanca (and was accepted) the program began immediately to send lots of help my way, with everything from the paperwork side of things (obtaining a Visa would have been much more of a struggle without help from the program) to packing lists. It’s also been helpful to keep in mind that seemingly innumerable students go abroad for part of their undergraduate education and while they all encounter their own difficulties with the process, just about every one of them seems to have an amazing time and a deeply significant experience of learning and personal growth. And when I’ve found myself getting nervous, I’ve been repeating to myself a useful saying I learned from the very smart lady I worked with for the past two summers which we used to bolster our courage when tackling difficult or unfamiliar tasks: “bigger idiots than I am have done this and been fine.”

I’ve bought the things I felt would be useful, following my instincts and advice from other student-travelers, including many fellow Bowdoin students, and started making a list of what will go into that backpack. I purchased a guidebook which is so large and bulky I don’t plan to bring it with me but which I have been enjoying reading to learn a bit about what I can expect to encounter when I arrive in Salamanca and as I visit other parts of Spain.  The most fun I’ve had getting ready for my semester abroad has been spent talking to friends and acquaintances about their favorite experiences abroad (they’ve recommended cities, activities, and even specific cafes and bars to visit) and hearing their tips about what to bring and what to leave behind. Now, just over a week from my flight to Madrid, I feel about as prepared as I think I could expect to be, and the time has come to finish packing and get excited for the grand adventure that lies ahead.

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Cailey Oehler

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I am a junior at Bowdoin College, where I am majoring in Spanish and minoring in Art History and Teaching. I&#39;m outgoing and inquisitive, and getting to know other people is how I make sense of this mixed-up and beautiful world. My favorite hobbies are baking bread, playing ukulele, and camping. I love exploring new places and am looking forward to getting to know Salamanca as well as the fun and challenges I&#39;ll encounter in my travels around Europe.</span></p>

2014 Spring
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Bowdoin College
Art History
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