Nowhere in my preparation for Spain did I think to bring along myself. There was no mental note of, “Jas, remember to bring you.” Of course physically, that is a given. But I am talking about mentally, spiritually, morally and everything in between, the elements that compile a person’s core. This may sound strange, but is something that I found missing in the beginning weeks of me being here. Let me explain.

Coming here, I anticipated a different life with a different language and different people. I think I also somewhat expected a different me.

I love that quote by Confucius, “And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.”

Well, here I am. Unfortunately, my flaws, well let’s call them my “-isms,” are also here. I may be in Spain but I still am the perfect example of a procrastinator. I overindulge in chocolate. I am late more often than not. I attempt to be stylish but fail. Sometimes I watch crappy television. I could visit a place ten times, but still be unable to give directions. I get lost in conversation and thoughts, hence the procrastinator title.  I tend to overthink things. See, all here.

Jane Goodall said, “Americans will be looking over their shoulders, fearful not of their own shadows but of that thrown by their country.” Coming here, I was warned that I would be seen as what a typical American girl is often portrayed to be: easy and stupid. Despite, I am far from both and proud to be. I welcomed the challenge of the status quo. But thanks to the handy flow of alcohol mixed with my pre-conceived fantasy of living in Spain and it wasn’t long before I was displaced.

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I forgot about me. I found myself smoking cigarettes and staying out until six in the morning. Where did these habits come from? Because last time I checked, I have always hated cigarettes and midnight is late for me. I’ll admit, making out with a foreign guy in a club is fun and somewhat scandalous; but I don’t wake up the next morning and pat myself on the back for that. I am twenty years old without a single meaningful relationship under my belt. I am not an average twenty-year-old who is satisfied with flings and thinks that this is the best time in my life mostly because I have permission to be carefree.

Maybe I am an old soul.

Or maybe I’m a grandma.

Who knows.

But I know what I like and what I don’t. And I wasn’t too pleased with this version of myself.

“Behavior comes directly from attitudes about how significant something is-how it is valued. Values drive actions.”

My former actions didn’t coincide with previously built values. There lay a disconnect. Of course, I am here to have a good time and enjoy myself (and yes, I like to have a good time), but I am also here to learn and grow. I have never been a person to pretend to be something I’m not; and I don’t intend to start now. Now I just needed to claim the real version of myself to continue on this journey.

Traveling focuses on the seeing of sights and experiencing another culture. It does not mean I have to experience another version of myself; although, I as well as anyone is welcome too. Studying abroad is not about what you see, what you do, what you hear, what you taste, what you smell, what you feel.  It is more about how you do all of these things. For every viewing of the Sistine Chapel or Taj Mahal, there is a feeling, a reaction on the other side. To simply see it and check it off a bucket-list is great. But, to have it place an impact, to be touched, is far greater.

And this all comes full circle to my state of being here. I was doing, seeing, tasting and hearing things but simultaneously I was unconscious. Finally, my old self caught up and brought me back to life. I am happy to have her back.

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