I had known for a long time that I wanted to study abroad my junior year in college and that most likely I would spend that year in Europe. This is not too surprising, seeing as since an early age, I have had the enormous opportunity to delve into the customs, traditions and histories of different cultures. Raised in a bilingual/bicultural atmosphere, I have always been fascinated with discovering other languages and customs. It still astounds me to experience either personally, or vicariously, different ways of life from my own. It is then that the sense “everyone carries a personal universe of his/ her own” hits me the hardest. I realize now that even though I may not always be sure of different career decisions or of where I will be in a few years, my study abroad experience reinforced in me the sense that I will continue to evolve in different aspects of my life so long as I am open to truly share it with others. For it is in this open sharing that we discover the personal histories, the “universes,” of other people and forget to take our own for granted.
I am still living abroad today, and this, I believe, proves most persistently that my year abroad in Bordeaux, France left an indelible mark on my own personal history. I suppose I just loved French bread too much to want to leave! My year abroad was not only my first year so-away from home, it was a year when I developed friendships with wonderful people, passionate about my same interests to travel and experience different cultures. It was a year when I strengthened the confidence to adapt to a different system and flourish despite cultural and linguistic considerations. It was also a year when everyday life was a constant adventure and memorable experiences – like singing Mozart’s Requiem in a beautiful old church – seemed (and still do!) too good to be true.
Ultimately, I am very thankful for my year spent in Bordeaux, for it detailed a sketch of my life, my qualities, and my personal goals that I now continue eagerly to color.
Mary Josefa Velasco