Today, as I sit down to write this letter, it is January 14th. In a mere eight days, I'll fly from JFK to Madrid to start my semester abroad in Salamanca, Spain. Less than one year ago after vaccines became available, you had the opportunity to catch up with family members you spent the beginning of the pandemic distancing from. "How are you? Tell me what's going on!" aunts and uncles asked. Your most exciting tidbit was studying abroad in the spring. It was a topic of conversation, something you'd thought about doing since you were 13 and your sister went to Copenhagen.
Now, studying abroad is not only a topic of conversation to inform your family about your life. I've never set foot into Spain, but you've spent four months exploring new places, trying new foods, practicing the language, and fully immersing yourself in Spanish culture. Everything I am nervous about, skeptical about, excited about—you know how it turns out. It would be incredible if you could write a letter to me, your past self, and assure me that everything happens just how I want it to. I know that it's impossible. I also know that nothing ever turns out exactly how you expect. I keep reminding myself that there is simply no way to anticipate every obstacle, every scary moment, every situation where I'll be lonely, confused, or lost. As you look back on your experience, what was the scariest moment? How did you get through it, and how did it help you grow as a person?
What was the most exciting, prideful moment in your language-learning journey? I'm nervous about being brave enough to engage with locals in Spanish. I know I can speak to my professors here in the United States. I write papers, read novels and watch movies in Spanish, but it's hard to prepare for being in a new country where everyone has been speaking Spanish since they were babies. Did you have an "aha!" moment where it clicked? Did you push yourself out of your comfort zone and embrace things that felt scary, only to find out they were not so scary after all?
Who are the people you met during the semester that made a true impact on your life? Who are the professors who taught you to think in new ways and introduced you to new perspectives and cultures? Who are the friends you stayed up with all night, laughing and making memories you'll remember forever? Right now, I'm excited yet unsure about the people I will meet. Will there be people I click with? Will I miss my friends from home too much? Will I like my professors, and will they like me?
What are some of the coolest places you saw? What was it like to live and breathe around buildings from the 1200s? I don't think I've ever seen a building that old. What was your special spot in Salamanca? Tell me about the first time you went there. What was the best meal you ate? What was something you tasted that you were skeptical of, but wound up loving?
It's time for me to wrap up this letter, but I cannot wait to see you respond to these questions and more when the time comes. One last question—If you could give me, yourself from five months ago, one piece of advice, what would you say?
Today, I am enjoying the anticipation. I want to revel in the excitement, because once I step foot onto the plane, I will never exist as my "pre-studying abroad" self again.
I hope you had a transformative, fun, and life-changing journey in Spain.
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<p>Hi! My name is Nicole Stein. I am a Spanish major at Kenyon College from Montclair, New Jersey spending the Spring of 2022 in Salamanca, Spain! My favorite things to do are travel, try new food, swim in small bodies of water, pet baby animals of all kinds, spend time outside hiking, skiing and exploring, and making connections with people from all walks of life.</p>