How studying abroad became the adventure of a lifetime
Narrow cobblestone streets and tile-adorned buildings exuded the rich history deeply rooted in the breathtaking city.
Citrus aromas danced through the air radiating from orange trees that lined the streets, while vibrant hues of pinks, oranges, purples and yellows exploded from the flowers blooming on terraces and down sidewalks.
Gelato shops marked the most-visited areas of the city, inviting tourists and locals alike with masterfully crafted rose-shaped delicacies situated in crunchy cones. The sounds of Spanish voices rang from the doors of every shop and home filling not only Seville, Spain, but also my heart with the lilting syllables of the gorgeous language I longed to learn.
For three spectacular months, these sights, smells and sounds flooded my senses as I lived and participated in the Spanish culture as a full-time student.
I had not originally intended to spend the spring of 2017 studying in another country. However, as former plans fell through, with a leap of faith, I dove into what I can only call a God-orchestrated adventure.
The daunting idea of spending months away from my family transformed into the most spectacular journey of my life, resulting in profound personal growth.
My usual tendencies to stay within the safety of a comfort zone close to home were quickly challenged as I discovered studying abroad would require of me a boldness that I was unaccustomed to.
Hours wandering lost in the city thanks to my directionally challenged mind developed outstanding navigational skills. Comfort-stretching conversations were rewarded with beautiful, encouraging friendships and weeks stumbling over attempted conversations in Spanish resulted in the shattering of a language barrier.
Many of the most important aspects of my wonderful adventure happened outside the classroom in other areas of my life in Seville. By living in the home of a Spanish family, I was able to form relationships with both of my “parents” and my two little host brothers.
Their presence and our daily meals together quickly became an integral part of my weekly routine. Additionally, I met regularly with a Spanish student by the name of Ana to improve my Spanish and her English skills.
What began as a meeting for mutual advancement quickly blossomed into a friendship as our conversations were filled with shared interests and many fits of laughter.
These relationships and other encounters with people from various cultures opened my mind to better understand those around me with different ways of thinking and living.
Some of my best memories come from the moments I took to explore my temporary home on my own. The historic city came alive as I ventured into the winding streets, using the soaring towers of the Cathedral of Seville and Maria Luisa Park as my compasses to navigate.
Half way through my stay, I even had the chance to share my new home with my family as they visited Spain during their spring break. I fell so in love with Seville that by the end of my journey, I dreaded saying “goodbye.”
My story would not be complete without mentioning the continuous fulfillment of one of my greatest passions: traveling. One of the richest and most exciting aspects of my life in Spain was the almost weekly exploration of a new city or country.
From the desert sands of the African Sahara to the breathtakingly blue waters of the Tenerife Sea, the unimaginable beauty captured in the distant corners of the world still continues to astound my mind.
I have now traversed the cities and sites of Spain, beheld the magical aura surrounding the colorful Pena Palace in Portugal, explored the treasures of London, experienced the wonder of the snow-dusted mountains of the Swiss Alps, ridden a camel through the Sahara Desert and kayaked with dolphins in an unforgettable turquoise sea.
Time and time again, I have marveled at the blessing of being able to see so much of the world, and because of this, I have the courage to dream of the places my next adventure will take me.
For those marvelous three months, I discovered an amazing life in Seville, Spain, learning, growing and maturing. Many times, I would reflect on my life as if I was living a dream too unbelievable to be true. Countless interactions with people and living in the midst of an alternate culture greatly expanded my cultural view and acceptance as well as my ability to interact in Spanish.
I was blessed by an unmatched opportunity to traverse Europe to dream destinations, exponentially growing my confidence and independence. Ultimately, I credit this remarkable experience to the fact that it was situated right in the middle of God’s perfect plan for my life.
Through this journey abroad, I developed a deeper dependence on the Lord and His provision, which has prepared me to expectantly await whatever new and exciting adventures lie ahead.
Until my exploration of the world resumes, I am content to find the joys of life situated back home in Tennessee.
Rachel Pettross, a graduate Friendship Christian School, is currently a student at Tennessee Tech University. She enjoys traveling, reading and being with family. She plans to teach elementary school after graduation and continue exploring the world.