John Steinbeck said, “people don’t take trips – trips take people.”
This really got me thinking. Artful syntax aside, these words made me reevaluate my paradigm of what study abroad should be.
Call it my Type A personality tendencies or borderline OCD, but I’m a firm believer of planning for the future. In fact, I planned this overseas adventure about four years ago as a high school sophomore. I was surfing the Internet, and when I stumbled upon the IES blogging site, I was hooked. I knew this was the only program for me, and I was determined to make it a reality in college.
But I didn’t just plan for college. No, I specifically planned to go in the spring of 2013. Well here I am 1,460 days later, about to enter the second semester of my second year of college. Right on time; I stuck to the plan.
Since then, I’ve read every single post by a Barcelona blogger since 2008. That’s about 220 entries in case you were wondering. Even my homestay was planned. While reading the IES blogs, there was one woman I thought would make an excellent host, so I requested her. And I got her. More recently, Hanukkah Harry brought me a Spanish-English electronic dictionary, which I packed with Harry Potter y La Piedra Filosofal in my carry-on. I made a Pinterest board of tips and itineraries. I watched “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” a 1/3-English-1/3-French-1/3-Spanish-captioned foreign film called “L’Auberge Espagnole” and even – wait for it… – “The Cheetah Girls 2.” (No shame.) The only time I watch TV is to keep up with “True Blood” and stalk the Travel Channel to temporarily quench my wanderlust. But if anything remotely related to Spain comes on, you bet I record it on the TiVo. While other kids were doodling flowers in their math notebooks, I was listing my top European destinations in order of preference, first by country and then by city.
OK, so I’m not really as neurotic as I’m probably making myself sound, but I think you get the point.
After my years of preparation – and I mean ‘years’ quite literally – I would say I am ready to take this trip. Or at least, I’m sure that’s what the 16-year-old Marisa would say. But as I ponder my forthcoming journey abroad, my thoughts have shifted. I don’t want to just see the sights and check another box off of my to-do list. Rather, I want to learn the history, know the people. Even further, I want to become part of the history, feel united as one of the people. That, to me, is what travel is about.
I aim not to be a passive tourist, but an active traveler. That’s why I’m scrapping the idea of a Barcelona Bucket List from my mind. So, my only three semi-cliché objectives are: live, laugh and learn.
I am not going to take a trip to Barcelona. Prepared or not, this trip is going to take me.
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<div><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);">Marisa is a sophomore at the University of Florida, majoring in journalism and minoring in Spanish. She is an active writer and photographer for her school newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator, and a varsity rower on the UF crew team. In her free time, she enjoys playing guitar, volleyball, cooking, shopping and hanging out with friends. Traveling is Marisa’s biggest passion, and she has wanted to study abroad in Barcelona for some time now. She is most excited to master fluency in the language, immerse herself in the culture, sample exotic cuisines, and explore cities throughout Europe with new and old friends.</span></div>