Studying in Spain Inspires More Travel Plans
For Ava Macchiaverna, studying abroad in Spain was a no-brainer due to her interest in the Spanish language. After all, her major at James Madison University is foreign language, with minors in Latin American studies and cultural communications.
But it was her trip to Switzerland, and the accompanying photo taken 450 feet above a lake in the Swiss Alps, that won her the grand prize in University Language Services’ spring 2012 study abroad scholarship contest.
Parallels Between the Photo and Studying Abroad
In the description of her prize-winning photo, Ava explained that the excitement and uncertainty she felt in the gondola above the lake in Interlaken, Switzerland, was similar to how she felt in the Madrid Barajas Airport in spring 2011.
Ava, who is originally from Seaside Park, NJ, attended the University of Salamanca for a semester. She attested that although she learned about art history, Spanish grammar and other information you would expect to learn in school, studying abroad in Spain taught her even more important lessons.
For example, she said, “I learned to appreciate the moment, walk slow, and absorb all the beauty around me.” Her trip to the Swiss Alps should have been a given then, since she was determined to explore not just Spain, but the many beautiful countries nearby.
In fact, Ava did not go home once the spring semester ended. Instead, she stayed in Europe for another month, taking in the scenery, sometimes from 450 feet in the air! Shortly after her return to the US, she took another trip, this time to Thailand for a month.
The Power to Change Perspectives
Ava said that she knew that studying abroad would be an adventure that could open her mind to new possibilities, but even she was surprised at the change in her perspective. The trip changed her view of everything from education and the Spanish language to international travel.
In fact, she stated, “My mind has been truly opened because of my experience abroad and my list of hobbies has doubled to include anything from knitting to surfing.” With her new knowledge has come increased confidence, as well as a newfound sense of independence.
Of course, that’s not to say that studying abroad does not have its challenges, especially for students who become anxious in unfamiliar settings. As Ava stated, “There will always be differences between the cultures, traditions, and even languages of your home country and the one you are visiting.”
However, these differences do not have to be considered bad. Ava admitted that while the variances could be scary, “traveling abroad is what you make it.” Apparently, she decided to make her trip a memorable experience that others could learn from, especially after viewing her prize-winning photo from Switzerland.
When asked what she learned during her trip, Ava said, “Studying abroad gave me confidence to live outside the box and follow my dreams.” With this kind of result, perhaps it is no wonder that she plans to travel to additional countries after college graduation in May 2013.