I’ve been feeling reflective in the past few days, and have come to a conclusion. People try to force the study abroad experience into boxes. Either I’m having the time of my life, or I’m miserable. I love my friends that I’ve made here, or I am pining over those I have left in the states. I’m taking full advantage of my time here and enjoying the experiences, or am wasting my time wishing I were home with the people and places I’m comfortable with. Well it’s time for me to take a stand. This simply is not true, and it is not fair of the students abroad or the loved ones at home to assume that. Let us grow and learn without being forced to check the box everything is perfect or I hate it and I want to go home.

Now, take me for example. I LOVE Sevilla and traveling and everything (if you couldn’t tell based on my previous posts), but that doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. Of course I’ve had those times when I miss the comfort of home and I miss my friends and family every day I’m here. If I didn’t you’d think I was a little bit of a psycho-path/heartless b-word, admit it. So what do I miss? My family, my friends, healthy/diverse food, normal hot showers, you know…the usual. Especially during the *few and far between* hard times I’ve had here it has been sad to see pictures and events of everything I’m missing at F&M. Everything is more than worth it, as I’m sure almost everyone else studying abroad will agree, but the sad does exist. It wouldn’t be realistic to expect it not to.

So, to all you study-abroaders out there, those thinking about studying abroad, and those who know someone studying abroad, my message is this: you/they will love every single silly second of it, both the bad and the way more frequent good, but let yourself/them miss somethings about home too. It only enhances the experience and helps you truly grow. Love it, support it, accept it.

 

After a whirl-wind week of showing my parents and sister Sevilla, I went to Granada with my program, JYS. While there, I realized something very important; the title of my personal blog, Small Girl, Big World, is 100% wrong. The world is not big, but actually tiny. Ok fine, I guess that makes the title of my blog only half wrong but whatever, let a girl dream, gosh! Let me explain.

My roommate has a friend studying in Granada for the semester, so we met up with her after touring the Cathedral and Royal Chapel in order to truly experience the cities nightlife. It turns out that her friend is on the program that was my second choice ( SIT Granada – which is also supposed to be amazing and she loves – small world #1), and will be visiting Sevilla in April through SIT. Therefor, I would have met my roommate even if we’d been studying in different cities (small world #2). I get to talking with one of the other girls from my almost program, and almost immediately find out that she knows people that I went to high school with (small world #3). I swear, I don’t see or hear about most of my grade when I’m at home in West Windsor but transplant me to Spain and suddenly everyone I’ve ever known starts coming out of the woodwork. It’s casual. To recap so far: within a few hours I’ve connected with my roomie no matter what, and had mutual acquaintances with people I came very close to spending the semester with.

All of this happened over the course of maybe two hours at a bar with cheap drinks and free (yes, you did read that correctly) tapas before we went to literally the coolest nightclub I’ve ever seen in my life. Built into the side of a mountain, the bottom level of el Camborio is a cave. No, that is not an exaggeration thank-you-very-much. As if that isn’t cool enough, the top floor overlooks la Alhambra. AMAZING! To top it all off, ladies got in for free (again with this free stuff?! Come on Granada, you’re stealing my heart one Euro at a time.), and the music was popping. After an incredible night of dancing we finally dragged ourselves away to get a few hours of sleep before rallying to tour la Alhambra.

Now, back to my small world. We’re going through the tour (stunning by the way – even without an awesome tourguide like Fernando it would be worth going back to), and I’m chatting with a girl on my program about her sorority (which has a chapter at F&M – small world #4), and that I live close to Princeton. Obviously that led to the do you know who I know game, only this time I actually did! In her sorority is none other than a girl who I’ve known for as long as I can remember and who’s family is family friends with mine (small world #5). Seriously, my brain just about exploded. In less than 48 hours, in a city that I don’t even live in, I made no less than 5 random connections to home. That’s a lot to process! All in all, I have got to return to Granada, it was fantastic (even without all of these funny coincidences). But seriously, if that’s not a small world, what is? No, really, tell me. I dare you!

 

I am so excited to start my adventures abroad in Cairns, Australia this January. I cannot believe that I will be leaving so soon! In all honesty, shopping for snorkeling gear online has had me procrastinating studying for finals ..

(http://www.rei.com/product/830749/head-grouper-dive-mask-and-snorkel-combo  thoughts?!)

There are several goals I have been thinking about that I want to achieve during my time abroad. Academically, I am hoping to conduct a killer independent study. The program I am going to be doing is on rainforest, reef, and cultural ecology. There will be several field modules during which we will be conducting ecological research. I have been planning to do an independent study on a coral reef disease called black band disease that is killing many corals of the Great Barrier Reef today. I am looking forward to the opportunity to conduct my own research and write a large report on my findings.

Other goals I have are to make a lasting connection with my homestay family, get to know the Cairns area really well, and make lasting friendships with people within my SIT group but also with local Aussies. I want to learn as much as possible about Australian ecology while I am over there in the southern hemisphere. I would like to be able to identify a lot of different reef and rainforest species. I hope to learn a ton about the aboriginal people of Australia. I am excited to be in an entirely new place with new sights, smells, and feelings. Having the opportunity to be one in one of the most environmentally unique and also environmentally conscious places is also exciting.

As of now, the nerves have not yet set in (the excitement is currently overpowering any nerves). The rare and overwhelming biodiversity of Australia means there are several species that are dangerous and some who are even deadly, so bites from poisonous spiders and venomous snakes and stings from killer jellyfish are potential sources of nervousness. However, that is all part of the excitement I suppose also!

In terms of packing, I am trying to pack as light as physically possible. I will be moving around a lot from place to place so I’d like to make moving around as easy as possible. I want to live simply while in Australia and not complicate my life with several unnecessary consumer products. Also, the good thing is that if I forget anything I can always buy what I need over there! A couple of good UV blocking shirts are definitely going to be an essential item to bring. Until next time!