Annie Kornberg, a senior studying Human Development and Family Sciences in the college of Public Health and Human Sciences, spent Winter and Spring term of her Junior year living in Salamanca, Spain. She studied through Academic Programs International. However small the city may be, she found herself wrapped up in its magic. Upon returning to Oregon State University, she added a Spanish minor, and has started to consider making travel part of her future career.
While getting ready to study abroad, I had a list of a few “must-sees” in Europe. I had a mediocre bucket list of things to do in Spain, a “Travel” Pinterest board, and even a journal entry describing what I wanted to experience while abroad. Within 10 minutes of actually being in Spain, I thought to myself: There goes the bucket list. It only took me that long to realize this adventure would be nothing like I had planned.
My host family was one of a kind. I lived in a three story upright apartment, with my “grandma” and “sister” on the first floor, my “aunt” and “cousins” on the second, and my “brother” and I on the third. We were the definition of unconventional, and I loved every second of it. Between family nap-times, and three hour lunches where we laughed until we cried, I felt right at home. Instead of my perfect, list-oriented plan for my study abroad experience, I spent my days wandering from one interest to another. I would walk down the streets of Salamanca, Spain hopping in and out of every store, making small talk with every store clerk who seemed friendly enough to struggle through my broken Spanish. I spent my weekends taking nearly unplanned trips with friends to different countries, getting lost and following every recommendation of restaurant or sight to see. On one particular weekend, four friends and I traveled to the southeast of Spain, to a town called Valencia. Originally, we had no plans, except to see the festival called “Las Fallas”. On a whim, and also because it sounded so cool, we spent the night in a glass tunnel that cut through the middle of a shark tank. That definitely was not on my bucket list; however the experience and excitement of it all made me feel more alive than anything I had pinned to a Pinterest board or planned in advance.
The rest of my trip was pretty much the same; I traveled from one place to another seeing what I could see, and experiencing what I could experience. Somewhere in my five months abroad, I heard the quote “The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see” by Gilbert K. Chesterton. I realized that not only was I learning about culture, people, and practicing a new language, I was learning to be a traveler and not a tourist. No, that does not mean when I visited France, I avoided the Eiffel Tower, or that I never stepped foot in the Coliseum while in Rome. In fact, I loved visiting those places! Learning to be a traveler meant taking my time visiting a place and seeing what I could see, planned or unplanned. I learned to embrace cultures fully, to try new things and to be comfortable in new or unusual situations. Traveling the world does not stop when you’ve come home, either. Sometimes I still find myself wandering around Corvallis, seeing what I can see.
My advice to you? Never stop traveling.