Redefining My Comfort Zone

Izzie Bautista
December 3, 2017

You know how people always rave about their life-changing abroad experiences? “You will come back as a different person!”, they exclaim, “It will be a whole new you!”. Those of you who know me know that those phrases were most definitely met with an obligatory smile but then followed by a hidden eye roll. Don’t get me wrong, I was not denying the fact that my time abroad will be (and has proven to be) an incredible experience. I was just a little skeptical about the drastic, 180º change people claimed was in my near future.

My recent day-trip to Madrid with my parents concluded my travels outside of Salamanca for the rest of the semester. Not only have I explored different parts of Spain but I also had the opportunity to visit Germany, Portugal, Norway and Ireland. Each place definitely had their highs as well as their lows but through all those unique experiences, I started to finally notice a small change in myself. This was especially noticeable in the countries that did not speak English nor Spanish.

Let me provide one example. I met up in Norway with one of my friends from Gettysburg who was studying in Copenhagen for the semester. Despite it being significantly colder than Salamanca, the country was absolutely beautiful. It was especially nice to spend time with my friend, making school feel not so far away. Apart from not being able to pronounce any of the names of the bus stops, we had virtually no trouble communicating with the locals… Well except this one time.

We needed to kill time before catching the bus back from Bergen to Stavanger, where we were staying with her family. Our noses led us to a small bakery which we decided was the perfect place to appease our growling stomachs. I saved a table while my friend made her way to the counter to place her order. She returned, six pastries richer. “They were having a deal!” she blurted once she saw my look of surprise, “I couldn’t pass it up.” Still laughing, I made my way to the front to order. “Hei hei” one of the workers greeted me. I tried to order a drink but just my luck, I managed to locate the only employee who had difficulty understanding English. Now you may be thinking, I should simply find what I’m asking for on the menu and point it out. However, in that moment I was so caught off guard and feeling the pressure of the growing line behind me, that I resorted to what I was used to. I spoke in Spanish.

Here I was, an American student speaking Spanish to an old man who probably only knew Norwegian. Although that made the situation all the more confusing for everyone involved, it showed me something. I was suddenly put out of my comfort zone and the next best thing I thought to do was to speak Spanish. I know a lot of my peers have experienced something similar. When English just was not cutting it, they would default to Spanish, despite the fact that it did not really make sense in terms of their geographical location. I realized that we have unknowingly stretched the boundaries of our comfort zone. Speaking and thinking in Spanish became instinctive. That is not to say that we have mastered the language; though not fluent, we have become more comfortable with it.

At the beginning of the semester everything was new and unfamiliar. I definitely had less confidence using the language from day to day. I was afraid of making mistakes. However, while I continue to make plenty of mistakes, I don’t let that keep me from trying. This process isn’t without its difficulties but it has taught me to laugh at myself. For instance, one time I said echar un polvo instead of estar hecho polvo (I’ll let you search for the translations yourself). All in all, I have become more comfortable integrating Spanish into my normal routine. After each trip I take, I come back tired but relieved. I’m always eager to board the bus back to Salamanca from the Madrid airport. En route, I watch the beautiful cathedral towers focus into view as I get closer and closer to returning to the comforts of my new home.

Cariñosos saludos,


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Izzie Bautista

<p style="margin-bottom:12.0pt"><span style="color:#404040">My name is Isabel but unless you’re either my mom, dad or nurse calling me in from the waiting room, I go by Izzie. I am a rising junior at Gettysburg College pursuing a major in the Health Sciences with a minor in Spanish. I have traveled outside of the US before (namely the Philippines where a lot of extended family reside) however, visiting a country for vacation and being totally immersed in it are two completely different experiences and I can’t wait for this new adventure in Spain.</span><span style="text-autospace:none"><span style="font-size:16.0pt"><span style="font-family:&quot;Times&quot;,serif"> </span></span></span></p>

2017 Fall
Home University:
Gettysburg College
Natick, MA
Health Studies
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