I scribbled the phrase down in my notebook, thinking about how so very accurate it was to my life. I was living the life, the Sevillano life, for a semester of my studies in the Center on International Educational Exchange's Liberal Arts program.
My name is Suzanne Zakaria, but this semester I am "Susana." I am an International Politics and Spanish double major, and study abroad was on my must-do list even before I set foot on Penn State's campus. Now, being here in Seville, I can hardly believe all of the amazing opportunities in front of me. Europe is at my feet, and my calendar is filled with prospective travel (Paris, Amsterdam, Rome!). New foods, new clothes, and a new lifestyle surround me. Here, I am immersed in a culture that I previously had no ties with, other than language.
My most rewarding experience so far has been my participation with the University of Seville choir. I had been on the fence about joining. The safety net of my American-catered program would be lifted, and it would be up to me and only me to make friends with my Spanish peers. That aspect aside, this world used a set of vocabulary that I had never even heard before. How would I know if I skipped a beat? Or what measure to reference (the word for measure, by the way, is compaz)?
After a fairly painless audition, I sat down in the contralto section with a ridiculous grin on my face. To my surprise, starting conversations was a breeze. Reading the music made me realize that even though I was far from native Spanish speaker status, music was a universal language that we all understood.
Rehearsal ended, and the choir insisted I join them for tapas and drinks. Just like that I had gone from knowing nobody to chatting with 20 different people about music, America, and my life in general. They would burst into song at random points (in perfect harmony, of course), and I couldn't help but be amazed at how similar the dynamic was with that of my musical friends at home.
Being abroad brings its challenges. Communication, namely, as it always requires concentration. Homesickness, of course. But it's these kinds of victories that make the challenges disappear. Time is flying by, and before I know it, the end of semester concert will have passed. If I had not auditioned and had let my doubts govern my decisions, I would never have met an amazing group of Spaniards.
If anyone has any questions about Spain or study abroad, please send me an email at email@example.com! Until later, Penn State, hasta luego.