It had been one of the first things I knew about college.
“You’ll have to go abroad,” my mom had said, “I never went, and I regret it daily.”
With this impending expectation, leaving the country for 3-4 months for the pursuit of education and cultural expansion was as mandatory as lackluster GE classes. I had scheduled it into my academic career since my inception, penciled in for fall quarter of my junior year because, well, I don’t know. Just because.
That time was now.
Given my Spanish minor and my obsession with the culture, Spain had been an obvious choice. Cal Poly Global had been a less obvious choice, but still an easy one. All my units were directly transferrable, I’d be on a quarter system, which meant I could stay in SLO for WOW Week, and we would be living in a city little known to tourists and the pollution of American culture. We were told almost no one spoke English and we’d be intensely and adequately immersed. It was ideal.
As the news came out, and even more so as my departure approached, people asked me how I felt. Was I excited? Was I nervous? Did I think I’d fall in love with a Spanish man? My simple response:
“I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it.”
This was true. I’d given little to no thought to the three-month excursion from everything familiar I was about to embark on. I’d done little to no research, and had done absolutely minimal studying for the expansive map test I would have to take upon my arrival (though in my defense, minimal studying happens on my part regardless of where I am).
In fleeting moments, I would feel something. Panic, in one instant, when I realized that if for some reason I loathed this experience I was still trapped in it for three months. Excitement, in others, when I realized that I would be completely anonymous halfway around the world from all the chaos that seemed to cling to my skin like a scent I couldn’t shake despite my best efforts.
Spain didn’t excite me so much as escape did. At one point in my life, I had been a pillar. I had been a source of consistency and strength for people who had needed me. Now, with no attachments, no responsibilities, and a clear conscience, I’d become flighty. I lived in a state of restlessness, a permanent craving for stimulation, for something that made me feel…anything really. So leaving the country in the throes of not only political and moral chaos, but also in the midst of my own personal and romantic chaos was not only perfect, it felt mandatory for my very sanity. Because if you’re going to run from your problems, why not do it in a beautiful country, surrounded by strangers and paella?
The next bombardment of questions came in the form of: how will you communicate with us? Personally, I’d be content disappearing for three months and going of the grid entirely. Those who loved me were not as fond of the idea.
Family requested emails, my mother requested limitless pictures—knowing fair well that the request would be ignored; I had never been a huge picture person. I would have to document my trip in some way, if not for the benefit of my dear mother than possibly for sheer reflection later in life when things had become even duller than they already were.
Then, as fate or some other entity would have it, an email found its way to my inbox. A representative from a website I’d read frequently sought a team of 15-25 personally selected writers to cultivate and grow their skills in a group setting. I imagine it was the equivalent for young writers on this site of something we used to have in school called LEAP or GATE.
It then occurred to me, if I was to be writing weekly articles anyways, why not selfishly, conceitedly, and completely conveniently make them all about me and my foreign existential crisis?
And so dear readers, random Facebook companions, my supervisor, and my mother: as I embark on this journey that will supposedly “change my life,” I invite you to follow me week-by-week as I document it the only way I seem to know how: writing.