This past Saturday I celebrated the tenth anniversary of my first ever experience abroad. It was on June 25 that I got on a plane at Newark Airport and got off in an entirely different mundo. I spent a month in Mexico living as an exchange student with a host family, taking classes in the Spanish language and culture. It was an experience that most 16 year old teenagers can’t say they’ve ever had. Only a few years later I would spent multiple semesters abroad, making my 30 days seem like a walk in the park, and yet when you’ve never traveled anywhere foreign before and you’re completely without family and friends, 30 days is a huge deal. In reflection I thought back to all the things that have changed since that day I boarded a flight to Mexico City:
- Seeing the beautiful Twin Towers upon my return descent into the New York area. Unimaginable that barely two months later they would be gone.
- Speaking Spanish fluently. I went to Mexico with two years of American high school Spanish and had a difficult time of things while there. Since Mexico I would spend semesters abroad in Costa Rica and Spain, in addition to returning to Mexico to work as a volunteer following my graduation from college. When I think back on the slightly shy girl who was apprehensive about rolling her rrr’s, my fluency now just amazes me.
- As time goes on, Mexico and its people continue to get a bad rap. But I know firsthand the people’s incredible generosity and kindness, and my feelings and thoughts of them will never be swayed by what’s reported in the news or people’s misconceptions. Negatives sell news, never the positives.
- I’ve traveled to every continent except Australia and Antarctica.
- I have an insatiable need more than ever to travel to both old and new places.
- I’ve actually followed through with something outside of a work and school context (posting regularly on this blog).
Although I’ll always have a lot of travel anniversaries, none will ever mean as much to me as the commemoration of my first ever international sojourn. And now I’ll leave you with some photos of beautiful Queretaro: