Study abroad!! Woohoo!! I never thought it was going to be possible, especially when there is a major pandemic still going on. I was always hopeful though and the excitement overtook my body when I turned on my phone and saw the happy email telling me that Paris was my next stop. I am a World Languages major at Lewis & Clark College with French and Russian as my focus languages. Yes! I am required to do some sort of immersion program in order to complete my major, but that was not exactly what motivated me to study abroad. I had already decided to take this journey even before that since I am a person that is driven by curiosity and adventure. I also always carry an open mind that is willing to learn and celebrate other points of view and backgrounds. I want to learn more about the world and us, the people who live in it, and have multiple cultural shocks and epiphanies in the process.
Now I want to tell you about my predeparture adventure and some of the things I encountered. I got my visa appointment in San Francisco the last week of July, therefore I had to fly to California right after spending 2 weeks working as a wilderness leader in northern New Mexico (don't worry y'all, I promise I showered). Because I was out of civilization for a while and disorientation is real, I did not realize my watch was one day ahead (I have no clue how that happened). The day of my appointment I checked my watch just to make sure I was on time, but I looked at the wrong date. Automatic mental breakdown and sadness kicked in, I thought I missed my appointment. Luckily my friend was there to tell me my watch was wrong.
We made it to the appointment on time, but once there my blood pressure dropped when the lady reviewing my documents told me that my passport was wrong. She said that they wrote the renewal day wrong, I renewed it last year (2020). I didn't know what she meant until she mentioned: "your passport was renewed in 2020, that can't be possible because we are in 2019." I looked at her with the most confused look I've ever given to someone, I didn't know what to say. Finally after 30 seconds of extreme confusion and stress she realized we are in fact in 2021. She apologized and said the pandemic has been a nightmare and that it feels like 2020 just shouldn't exist in the calendar. I 100% agreed with her, but for the purpose of my visa 2020 unfortunately did exist.
Finally the adventure is starting! As a lot of us already know, there is a national stressful situation going on with flights. This is causing lots of flights to be delayed and/or cancelled. I was worried that this was going to happen to my flight the day of departure to France, therefore I decided to leave for New York from California some days in advance to ensure that I will be in time for the departure of my France flight. Flying right now is super stressful and confusing, especially when you are tired and you end up giving your debit card to the airport security instead of your ID. The look she gave me was priceless, I wish I could have taken a picture.
Besides being on my way to learning more about the French language and culture, I am also picking up useful skills and learning about life on the way…I learned about the stressful, but satisfying process of applying for a visa, as well as planning financially while abroad (especially when you are independent). I also learned about adrenaline when my flight got delayed and realized I had to run from one extreme of the airport to the other in just 10 mins in order to not miss my connecting flight. I'm so grateful I did cross country running in high school, now I'm finding a use for that training :)
The excitement and the worry are two beautiful feelings that are balancing each other inside my head. This is not my first time living by myself since I went to boarding school during high school and this is not my first time living in a foreign country since I immigrated to the U.S. when I was 13. Having all this experience with me is really helpful, but the initial excitement and worries of starting a new adventure are always magical and are always going to be there.
The first time I had ever lived in a city was during my first year of college in Portland, Oregon. Now I can't believe I'm going to be living in one of the biggest cities in the world. I'm what we call in Mexican Spanish "Un muchacho de rancho" (this is like saying "country boy", but make it Mexican). I know that living in such a big city can be a challenge, but I know that with a challenge comes an adventure. Can't wait to get lost on the streets, ask for directions and get weird looks for mispronouncing names. It's going to be great!
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Martin Lopez Melendez
<p>My name is Martin and I am a 20-year-old student studying at Lewis & Clark College in Portland Oregon. I'm majoring in World Languages with my two main languages being French and Russian and minoring in dance. I was born in a small rural area in Mexico and immigrated to California when I was 13. At age 16 I embarked on a 2-year adventure at the United World College USA located in northern New Mexico. I love talking to people, seeing and learning about new places. In my free time, I love dancing, reading, working out, and spending time with friends. I am also a goat lover and consider myself a goat expert.</p>