Landing in the Madrid airport, it hit me that I was outside of the U.S. for the first time, that I had no idea where I was going, and that I did not know the Spanish language as well as I thought. It was the first time I had truly been pushed out of my comfort zone.
A few hours later, I found myself in the dorms in Oviedo with nine other UO students. At the time, I didn’t realize that they were about to become some of my closest friends. All I knew was how excited and grateful I felt to finally be exploring a country I had been studying and dreaming about for years.
Studying abroad, especially as a first-generation college student, I felt the need to see everything, try everything, and eat everything (even the scary-looking goose barnacles). While I loved filling my free time with must-see spots and excursions, I also learned the value of downtime.
On one of my favorite days of the program, we took a class trip to Covadonga. There, we were able to visit the Basílica de Santa María la Real, a breathtaking church that was built in the late 1700s and is surrounded by beautiful green, mountainous landscape. We also walked through the Santa Cueva (Holy Cave) de Covadonga. Inside the cave was a chapel and underneath flowed the bluest river I had ever seen. I even drank the water from the fountain by the river, which apparently promises me a life of happiness and marriage.
The excursion to Covadonga was memorable to me not just because it checked off a lot of tourist bucket list boxes, but because of the peaceful atmosphere it holds. As a place that is sacred to many, just being able to witness it firsthand was a moment that provoked much thought and reflection. Standing in front of the statue of Don Pelayo and learning about how he led the Asturians to victory in a battle against the Moors in this exact place was a moment I will never forget. I was standing in the birthplace of today’s Spain, a country I fell in love with.
It was experiences like these during my trip that taught me the value of living in the moment. I learned how to just be still, silently observing and experiencing these new amazing places I was lucky enough to visit. In doing so, I created lifelong, meaningful memories and developed a new appreciation for the beauty of the world and everyday life. I stopped feeling the pressure to fill my days abroad with packed agendas and began enjoying the simplicity of living in such a beautiful region.
As a group, we went on so many fun excursions and shared so many amazing memories. We walked through the dark and winding Tito Bustillo Cave, and eventually got to look at one of the world’s first cave paintings. As a group of journalism students, seeing such an ancient and meaningful form of communication was astounding.
Oviedo became such a special place to me. It is a small town, clean, pure and untouched by tourism. It was filled with colorful and unique buildings, quiet and beautiful parks, and a sense of community and hospitality unlike anything I had ever experienced. On a typical day, after class, my new best friends and I would walk through the peaceful streets and stop at whichever restaurant caught our eye first. Meals were long; they came with many different plates for us to share, many baskets of bread, and many cider refills. We would often sit at a meal for over an hour, engaged in meaningful conversation and becoming close with the incredibly friendly owners and employees of our favorite restaurants.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was conducting interviews for class. It gave me an opportunity to break out of my shell, learn about new perspectives, and gain insight from different kinds of people. I spoke to people with different demographics and political views about current and important global issues- mainly women’s reproductive rights.
The courses I took with Professor Laufer truly inspired and sparked my love for journalism.
Because of my experience studying in Spain, I will always fuel my work and education with passion and curiosity.
Falling in love with life in Oviedo and my program made it even more heartbreaking to know that my time there was only temporary. However, I am so thankful for all the life-changing experiences my trip gave me, as well as all of the people it allowed me to meet.
During my trip, I made so many genuine friendships with people from all over the world. I learned that there is something so gratifying about connecting with someone who has lived a life entirely different from my own. I learned and experienced how important it truly is for people to be open and seek understanding among one another- especially in a global context.
It was sad that my time abroad was only temporary, but I learned that I am capable of spending time in another country and growing comfortable enough to call it my home. And that my possibilities after graduation are endless…
-Miranda Davis, Cross Border Interviewing and Story Development in Spain and Portugal