Learning to Adjust with Grace

Maria Amorosso
January 30, 2017

On January 17, 2017, I left the United States for four months. And I managed to expose my hypocritical tendencies and embarrass myself at the same time. I looked at my mom and said “Don’t get emotional this time, Mom.” No sooner had the words escaped my lips when my face crumpled with the suppressed emotions I had been subconsciously suppressing for weeks upon weeks. While incredibly dramatic, the release of emotions felt good. It grounded me as a real, not-cold hearted person with feelings and hopes and dreams and fears. I really and truly thought that I was emotionally ready to leave the United States, start a new chapter of my life, and “find myself” by immersing myself in another culture and situation. I just didn’t realize how much of an emotional undertaking it would be.


One thing I’ve learned about myself over the past two weeks or so is that I massively underestimate the effect that change has on me. I’ve been through the change gauntlet, so to speak, including a couple times moving and changing schools, boarding school at age sixteen, and even study abroad in Madrid for three weeks (also at age sixteen.) Safe to say, I have gotten into the habit of underestimating the time it takes to get adjusted and acquainted with a new situation.


In my mind, being abroad in a country so far away means that I am suspended across the Atlantic. Whatever happens, I am a spectator of my own country, my “old” life as an American. My family. My university. And that’s an incredibly scary thought. But with the agency that I lose by temporarily moving thousands of miles east of home, I gain in a new culture.


My experience these slightly less than two weeks (!!!) in Salamanca, España, has been all about turning the lemons of culture shock into the lemonade of learning a brand new way of life. While adjusting to change isn’t always fun or graceful, it’s necessary for growth. (side note: I promise I will do a post on culture shock later.)


I tend to overthink many things. Sometimes this turns out well, in the case of school and literary analysis, but a lot of times it ends up corrupting something beautiful. Case in point: as a part of orientation, we took dance classes. The instructor told us the steps for flamenco, but instead of feeling the rhythm in my body, I stiffly counted the steps, repeating the numbers one by one instead of immersing myself in the beautiful music. Why? I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. I’ve known that I’m terrible at dance since I was five.  I preferred sticking to a specific, pre-calculated formula instead of throwing my cares to the wind and embracing the beautiful mess of it all. One of my new friends stepped in as my dance partner and we laughed about how arrhythmic I was, but more importantly talked about how I wasn’t letting myself go. After that, I took myself much less seriously and focused on having fun with my peers.


Through the excruciatingly humiliating experience of flamenco class (I’m only partially joking,) I realized that I had to throw the image of having my life together to the wind. I didn’t choose to go abroad to be a stiff, “perfect” version of myself. No, I decided to go abroad so that I could literally experience the world and expose a real, raw part of myself, a part of myself that’s unfamiliar, even to me. Sometimes that means taking uncalculated risks.


The other night, my friend and I were seated in the Plaza Mayor, mesmerized by the wet, dark swath of sky, painted with flecks of stars far away. While I miss my family and US friends like crazy, I’m comforted by the fact that every night, they look up at the same constellations that I do (negating pollution.) That same night, my friend and I also made a few Spanish friends, just by being friendly and people-watching in the Plaza. One of the friends made fun of me for eating ice cream in 40 degree weather, but that’s neither here or there. The fact of the matter is that this made me realize that, once again, I was overthinking it, and that making friends was a lot easier than I was making it out to be. Each and every day I’m seeing that just because you have to put yourself out there, doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. That’s going to be my motto for the rest of the trip. After all, as my parents would say, life starts outside of your comfort zone. Here’s to leaving mine behind.


Hasta luego,




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Maria Amorosso

<p>Hi! I&rsquo;m a junior attending Colgate University. I&rsquo;m majoring in Psychology and minoring in Spanish &ndash; I practice it whenever I can! As a multicultural student (half black and half Italian), I consider myself a city girl and am drawn to vibrant, diverse areas. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, traveling, going to the beach, and watching or playing sports. I can&rsquo;t wait to head to Salamanca, sharpen up my Spanish and share my adventures!</p>

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