My first study abroad journey has come to an end, but I know it definitely won’t be my last. Although five weeks may not seem like a lot of time, it was enough time to bond with my host family, classmates, and experience daily life in a different country. Being able to study abroad has been one of the most exciting and wonderful experiences of my life. Getting to know my host family was the most wonderful way to get to experience and learn about a culture, but also a great way to meet different people with different points of views. My fears about how I would be perceived as a Mexican-American, as I mentioned in my first blog, were fears that were normal to feel, but at the end of the day, they weren’t fears that came to life. My host family didn't judge me as to whether my Spanish was the most perfect as a Mexican-American and they didn’t judge me about anything else. My host family has worked with tons of different students and they were so welcoming regardless of who I was. If you ever get the chance to experience living with a host family, you don’t have to be afraid of them judging you for whatever reason. There are exceptions, but the most realistic scenario is that they will be welcoming.
Overcoming fears was something that I really wanted to work on during this study abroad experience. Fears like the ones I mentioned but also the fear of trying new things. For example, I had never ever danced salsa before, but I overcame my worries and fears of embarrassing myself and went for it. Not surprisingly, it ended up being OKAY and FUN! Crazy right? And that’s a common theme with trying new things, usually, it always turns out to be okay. Even the smallest accomplishments, like this one, were big things for me and something that I was proud of. Among other fears and worries, I was worried about whether or not I was going to get along with my classmates. It may sound like a weird worry, but I ended up learning a really important lesson: the importance of truly accepting people for who they are, even if they have different likes and interests. Sometimes, I felt that because we were really different from one another, it was going to be hard to get along. However, letting go of that thought made such a difference. My classmates and I were so different from each other with unique interests but by viewing this as something positive instead of something negative, I was able to share amazing experiences with them such as going salsa dancing together, eating, visiting museums, walking around the plaza, trips to the fair, hiking, sightseeing, horseback riding, soccer games, doing homework at a cafe, and so much more. The main point is that being open to do all these things together made this experience so much more meaningful and wonderful because I was not alone in overcoming my fears.
With all this said, I think it’s apparent that I must’ve felt really sad about leaving and you’re right. I felt really sad about returning back home just because it was a truly wonderful experience getting to study abroad in Cusco, Perú. The sadness continued for a little after returning but I left Perú with the most amazing memories; from adventures like sightseeing to one may seem like simple things such as, eating dinner with my host family every night, walking to school every day with my roommate, wandering around the plaza with my classmates trying to decide at what place to eat lunch, and so many more. Now, looking back at this experience and how it turned out, a few things I would tell myself at the very beginning of the program is to not be afraid to overcome fears, to try new things, to not be afraid to get to know your classmates from the get-go. All of this together made this experience one to remember.