Week 6: It’s Not Over

Bonjour from the Belgian airport. It’s been a few hours since I got here. My phone is currently not working, I have a layover of a little over 7 hours, and I didn’t sleep at all last night (we’ll get to that soon). Nothing matters though, I am but a day away from coming home!!! #wepa

I have so many things I’ve been waiting to share with you in this post, so let’s get cracking!

Our trip to Luxembourg was delightful. After a walking along the city, we went to the Bofferding brewery where we had a global marketing lecture before we got to try all of the 6 different types of beers the brewery made. (I really do think I’ve learned just as much about beer as I have on economic transitions, integrations, and reforms). You can say I left feeling a little bit more than just “turnt.”

On Thursday, after we had turned in our final papers on China’s economic transition and had taken our final class, the program directors had a cocktail party for us to celebrate our completion of the program. We headed to the clubs right after for a final night out in Maastricht. I decided to have an all-nighter since the busses were going to arrive at 6am to take us to the Brussels airport, and I still had a lot of packing to do. I was out until 3:30am and finished packing by a quarter until 6am. I’ve been nonstop since. Can’t wait to be sleep deprived AND jet lagged when I get back… NOT (see what I did there 😉 #insidejoke)

Everyone knows that I’m typically not a crier with the exceptions of goodbyes. I HATE goodbyes, especially when having to do so with people from all over the world. Although most of the very close friends I made are from Penn State and will see them in two weeks tops, it did hurt saying goodbye to those who don’t go to school with me.

Like with my friend Mike. Mike is characterized by being slightly reserved yet extremely personable and all around kind. His timid smile and contagious laugh won everyone’s heart from the very start. It shocked me to learn Mike’s story as he has been through a lot for only 21 years. Yet, he has been able to transform these situations into greater reasons towards sharing love and happiness with those around him. Mike is a true example of how a believer should be, and his example only made me want to be more like him. I can’t wait to see his life unravel, and I hope it turns out to be nothing less than absolutely great… he deserves it.

Although I met her during the last 3 weeks of school, Nora also became a very close and special friend. A European from Luxembourg herself, her presence made me appreciate our similarities and differences from a closer perspective. Up until the trip, only another girl and I were not from the US. Having her take the course with us meant a breath of fresh air for me as we were able to relate to the same things. I thoroughly enjoyed her sweet self, and I am glad I have a new friend I can go visit (right after she comes to Penn State for a game!!)

Those were two of the people outside of Penn State who truly left footprints in my heart. I made really good friends from the group of Penn State as well, namely two who stood out for me.

Let’s start with James, or “Summer” James as he referred to himself as. He was actually one of the first people I met as we were in the same flight together on our way to Europe. If you would have asked me what my first impression of James was, I would have said that he defined a true frat guy. Nonetheless, I later found out there was much more to him than just boozin’. James is one of the funniest and most thoughtful people I met on this trip. He prides himself on his intelligence, hard work ethic, and future endeavors. He was also known for his catch phrases and for his pre-party pump up messages (which definitely made you want to play in the major leagues). Last week, as we had an impromptu Greek dinner in Ireland, we talked about life, goals, and past relationships. He didn’t know it, but a lot of what he told me were things I REALLY needed to hear. That dinner was perhaps one of the most genuine moments I had on the trip, and I look forward to having James around as my friend/frat-go-to at Penn State.

Last but certainly not least is Melanie, my roommate throughout the trip. Melanie and I happened to meet back when we had the orientation for the study abroad. I have to point out that orientations gave me a misleading impression of the people going; everyone seemed to be in Greek life, and there weren’t any other Latinos. As I left the building, I saw Melanie and thought she seemed pretty down-to-earth, so I went to say hi. She came off as unfriendly (I caught her in a bad mood), and I was not very pleased when we arrived at the dorm rooms, and I found out she would be my roommate. “Great! I’m stuck with the girl who’s probably going to sit in her room, listen to weird music, and never come out!” … Oh, how wrong I was (except for the second one) 😉

I want to come right out and say that I have NEVER met a person from the States as open-minded, sympathetic, and aware of what minorities go through in the US as her. In my almost 4 years as a student in the US, it is the FIRST time I meet a person who I can actually talk about ethnic issues and not feel as though I’m talking to a wall. She is extremely well-versed in political and global affairs and is not afraid of speaking her mind. Moreover, Melanie is well-rounded, independent, bright, and her confidence is one that any girl would kill to have. I don’t know what I would’ve done without Melanie on this trip- she’s in every single awesome memory I made throughout the six weeks. However, more than just a wing-woman, rapping partner, and adventure accomplice, Melanie became a best friend, and I can’t wait to see our friendship blossom at Penn State ❤

Alright, now I have some things to say about the study abroad experience altogether. First, I really wish there would have been more diversity within the group. I was the only Latina, there was only one other girl from Dubai, and for the second course, a girl from Luxembourg joined in. Putting it into perspective, we were 3 out of 30 some kids, which is pretty low if you ask me. Moreover, at times, I felt like a double minority; not only was I a minority in the country but also within the group. It was frustrating getting judgmental glances every time I proudly said I was Puerto Rican when I was asked where I was from or when I tried to explain how my culture was very different to theirs.

In addition, the courses were very much geared to the students in the US when relating topics to their culture, politics, and economy. I understand they were the majority, but not once did I feel they were mindful of us who came from other countries and cultures. It’s not hard to grasp the fact that we have different views and experiences relative to the others, and the fact that we were studying in another country should have been a good enough reason to embrace our different perspectives. All in all, I did see some people develop a more open mind regarding global issues, but other than that, the experience altogether showed me how ethnocentric people can be even when visiting another country.

Whew! Sorry guys, I really needed to vent after 6 weeks of holding all of that in. Now let’s go back to my last hours in Europe.

I flew to Frankfurt and had a 19 hour layover for my flight to Puerto Rico, so I got a hotel for the night. After getting settled in the room, I decided to go out to eat. I was very tired from not sleeping the night before and had no intentions of exploring the city. Of course, my curious spirit prevailed, and I roamed around Frankfurt for a couple of hours before grabbing dinner. I had no idea where I was going, and I had no map. I was just walking and enjoying every second I had before I left. I discovered lots of fun places on the walk…

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I was pretty far off from the hotel, but I somehow made it back. Either the city was easy enough for me to figure it out, or my sense of direction has gotten better. (Who am I kidding, it’s definitely the first one!) But in all seriousness, if there is something I learned during these past 6 weeks is that no matter how lost I get, my heart will always guide me to where I need to be; it will always guide me home. I’m not as worried about the future anymore, because I am now certain that I will make my way to where I belong.

As you may or may not notice, I started this post in Brussels, but I am actually coming to you live from Carolina, Puerto Rico! I’M HOME!!!! My family greeted me to pleneras yesterday at my favorite restaurant.

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And today, I went to my favorite place on earth… IMG_4228

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6 months away from home was torture to me. I missed my family, friends, the food, and the beach way too much.

So I guess this concludes my study abroad experience. We’ve come such a long way- from Amsterdam the first weekend to Frankfurt on the last. Of course, I would have changed one or two things about it all, but other than that, this was an enriching self-discovery journey. For the first time in a long time, I felt no stress but only sheer happiness. Moreover, I feel as though I got back being a wiser and more adventurous version of myself, and for that, I couldn’t be more grateful.

Speaking of which, I can’t end this last post without thanking God as I truly saw his provision and protection throughout this whole trip. I also want to thank my mom and dad for not only supporting me financially for the trip, but also for fostering such an adventurous and global vision in me. Last but not least, I want to thank all of you who kept up with my posts. It really made me the the happiest to see that all of you were enjoying to read my posts as much as I was enjoying to write them.

I will most definitely continue to write and publish posts, so I hope I will continue to have your support along the way.

I know, I know… it’s heart-breaking to reach the the end. But don’t get sad now. My adventures are not over. Trust me, they will never be.

Now to enjoy my last two weeks of summer in PaRadise.

Besos!

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