Hello everyone! My name is Ashley Land. I am a junior (cannot believe that) and media studies major at Pomona. I am from the windy city of Chicago, and as some of you may know, I am not at Pomona this semester but in the beautiful city of Salamanca in Spain. Choosing to study abroad was a very difficult decision for me. I thought it was going to be a horrible experience and that I was going to miss Pomona very much. Surprisingly, my time in Salamanca has not been so bad. My host family has made me feel very comfortable, so comfortable that I when asked them about what happened to the Spanish team in the world cup this year they agreed that it was a disaster and laughed it off. My classes have challenged me yet also helped me improve my Spanish speaking abilities, which I very much appreciate. I have even met some of the coolest people, Americans and Spaniards at the university, who I am grateful to now call my friends. As of today I am halfway through the semester and I already have so much to be grateful for.
For example, I went to Portugal the second week I was here. One thing I was really surprised by was the fact that the border patrol going back and forth from Portugal was literally nonexistent, which made me think a lot about the US and immigration in general. Portugal’s architecture is really something else–it’s a very quaint and chic city, and the skyline on the water was magnificent. There were so many twisty passageways and alleys filled with small houses that were kind of old but told a story. Most importantly, if you ever go to Portugal, know that you will have to climb up some crazy hills (my legs look better already). The food was amazing, with meat, french fries, and rice being the basic components of a meal, although I may have to get the Portuguese to redefine what a salad is–all the salads I got were like two pieces of tomato and one piece of lettuce (not my definition of a salad). And don’t get me started on the Port wine! I actually got to go in a wine cellar and taste the sweetest wine you could ever imagine (me gusta mucho). Not to mention that Portuguese sounds nothing like Spanish in my opinion.
This last weekend I went to Paris, which was absolutely amazing. Everyone must go at least once in their life because the Eiffel Tower is everything people depict it to be in the movies and more. My favorite part of the trip was probably visiting the famous Musée du Louvre and seeing the Mona Lisa in person. I have learned so much about the artwork in that museum and to actually be inside was amazing. Not to mention that the museum is free to students so I got to look at precious artwork for free. To have the opportunity to set foot where even Beyoncé, Jay-Z , and Blue Ivy have stepped stepped especially meant a lot to me as a low-income student whose parents couldn’t take her to a different country every vacation trip, and have barely been out of the country themselves. Most importantly, I can’t forget to mention the food, or more specifically, the kebabs in Paris. If you are ever in Paris you MUST get a kebab because they are everything!
You would think that my study abroad experience is basically perfect from these descriptions, but I would be remiss if I did not share the times where I have felt alone and defeated. I have recently experienced a lot of homesickness that really came out of nowhere because I have never really experienced homesickness in my life. I always had my doubts about study abroad but I was actually starting to settle and get adapted. Something in me just could not shake the bad vibes. At first I was blaming myself for not enjoying myself and having so many problems, but with the help of some love and support from my friends and family, I know now that it is okay to not be happy all the time. It is okay to miss my friends and family. It is okay to miss the place that really helped me discover myself as a young adult. It is okay to miss home. Being in a different place, let alone a whole other country, can get exhausting sometimes. What I’ve learned is that you have to keep reminding yourself that this is a learning experience and all you can do is grow from it. With this advice I have started feeling better already, and like I said before, I am halfway done! Overall, I have grown so much from my study abroad and I can honestly say that I do not regret my decision to study abroad at all. I have had so many opportunities to expand my knowledge and widen my view of the world.