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'When the word "Spain" is mentioned' - a significant experience, achievement, risk

kdelaney 3 / 2  
Oct 24, 2011   #1
CRITIQUE ME!! I want to make this essay as strong as possible. PLEASE pick on me!!

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

Lying in bed, I catch a glimpse of a faint outline on my wall: a hand-painted fan that I bought while in Cadiz, Spain. It's nothing special, but the intricate floral design transports me back to that summer, vacationing on the Mediterranean Sea with my host family. Locked in its bright yellows and reds are the memories that will last me a lifetime.

Almost immediately upon boarding that US Airways flight, I was overcome with emotion. It was a moment full of such anticipation, anxiety, and excitement. That summer before my junior year, I surprised everyone-myself, included-by participating in the Rotary International Youth Exchange program. Previously, I was very quiet, always shying away from anything potentially dangerous. For some inexplicable reason, in my heart I felt that this was a risk I needed to take.

During this unparalleled opportunity, I was able to explore the cultural aspects of Spain that are unteachable in a classroom setting. For example, on one of my first nights, my host sister and her friends took me to see the Twilight Saga: Eclipse. I had seen the film before I left for my trip and, although the film was dubbed en espańol, I did my best to enjoy it. The fact that I only caught every other word was irrelevant. At that moment, I found myself able to contribute to a sisterhood-to laugh, to cry, to stare in awe. I didn't feel like an American on a foreign exchange. I was just another twilight-obsessed teenager seeing the movie with her friends, eating las chocolates and giggling during the shirtless scenes. It wasn't about what my Spanish friends were teaching me or what I was introducing into their lives. That night, I was able to partake in an international phenomenon, joining in on the shouts of "te amo, Jacob!" and "ay dios mío, Edward!" We shared a common bond, intertwining our lives in a way that made perfect sense. A language that we all understood: teenage girl.

There is a Spanish adage that says "lo que en los libros no está, la vida te enseńará." This translates to "that which is not in books, life will teach you." Expressions like this have always resonated with me, but this one seemed to be a contradiction. After my summer abroad, however, I finally understood. Everything that I was introduced to that summer-la comida, la musica, las personas de Espańa-made me feel as though I was connected to a global community. Something about cooking la paella with my host mother inspired a desperate urge within me to absorb the culture. Likewise, visiting la Alhambra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, sparked my interest in European history. Saying goodbye to friends I had grown to love, however, evoked tears.

Sometimes when I close my eyes, I can still hear the ocean waves crashing and falling on el Costa de la Luz during my last trip down to the beach. Looking out over the horizon with my host sister, the unspoken realization that I would be returning to "my half" of the world loomed in the salty air...

When I allow my eyes to flutter back open, I see that hand-painted fan. It's something concrete, representing the vivid images that filled my mind and engulfed my heart moments before. Fusing different cultures together-and thinking of the world as a global community-is the first step in understanding our world, today. When the word "Spain" is mentioned in conversation, my thoughts drift back to that time in my life: experiencing homesickness for the first time, holding Euros in my hand, and being called morena. The fact that we all spoke different languages was insignificant. Saying goodbye to my host family at el aeropuerto, our embrace represented more than just a departure. It was an international bond, bridging the gap over the Atlantic. In that way, a piece of my heart will always long for a multinational connection.

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