It was much more than just tapas...
From the start of my Trojan Family membership, USC has helped me see and taste and learn and grow all over the world. As a freshman, I questioned everything I thought I understood about western medicine: in a tiny rural Brazilian healing clinic I gulped down "anthropology" as Joao de Deus performed mystic surgeries during my summer studies with Problems Without Passports. The next summer, again with PWP, I followed my time spent in Abadiânia with a change of scenery: In Ireland, my heart both broke and swelled as my class of 7 comprehended the gravity of language attrition as well as the preservation movements in place to preserve Irish Gaelic and the structure, music, and philosophy embedded into each of its words. Then came the spring of my junior year, where I fell completely in love with Spain through my studies with USC Madrid.
Life in Madrid was a whirlwind, simultaneously a challenge and a blissful overwhelm. Throughout the semester my classes provoked me and introduced me to masterminds - from Goya to Almodovar. My metro pass took me to a crystal palace, an Egyptian temple, and approximately 38 tapas bars - all in one city. Living with a host family not only helped me improve my language skills, but taught me more than I'd ever expected to learn in terms of being a student, a daughter, a teacher, a world citizen, and a Trojan. I taught weekly English classes for two of my dynamo host mama's grandchildren, explored Madrid's museums on a bus tour of 70-year-old women (milk carton included), and swapped music and movie quotes with my host brother. I grew to appreciate the struggle of adequately expressing myself, but even more to appreciate the universals of community and love against which language barriers don't stand the slightest chance. My academic life was filled to the brim, and my education even fuller. I learned how tapas are not only a delightful dining style for the indecisive, like me, but also a way of life: like everything else in Madrid, they're meant to be shared. The family into which I was welcomed while abroad is one I'm now lucky to call home forever.
I kept a blog while overseas, documenting my travels in Spain and throughout Europe. With the USC Madrid program, we danced all around España, often accompanied by our professors - the country was our classroom. Most weekends my posts chronicled each savored moment of insight or hilarity or exploration with my host family, but other times I would explore for myself. I wrote about breathing in the fairytale air of Prague, reveling in the paradise of Paris, gulping down the richness of Italy, singing the cheers of London. When the time came to wrap it all up with a final entry, I found that I couldn't - there was and is too much still left to say. Instead, I wrote something along the lines of this:
In all my studies and travels to different parts of the world, with the help and guidance of USC, I've started uncovering what it really means to be me. While abroad, I saw, I danced, I tasted, I drank, I listened, I splashed, I got carried away, I cried, I inhaled, I learned, I invested, I dreamt, I worked, I grew, I shrunk, I sang, I packed light, I stumbled, I won, I lost, I got lost, I savored, I wrote, I laughed, I discovered, I loved, I taught, I flew, I climbed, I lived. And you can bet I'll be bringing all of these past tenses into my present and future - hasta siempre. Thanks to USC, I've seen so much of the world and so much of myself. I'm lucky, and I know it. And I'm hungry for more.