With the start of September and an autumn breeze blowing through the football stadiums in Michigan, It is finally time for my extended vacations to end and to settle into an academic rhythm. This fall semester at the University of Virginia in Valencia I can look forward to taking five classes for fifteen credits to transfer back to my Spanish minor at Michigan State. Feeling so blessed to have spent an irreplaceable month with my friends in Spain, I boarded my train ready for a new experience in Valencia.
Going into this trip, I was convinced that I was going to take time to self reflect. I was going to figure out who I am and what I want out of life. While this is still the main goal of the semester I’ve drawn one conclusion thusfar on the matter: when it comes to traveling alone, I am incompetent. This was a devastating realization because I’ve always prided myself on being a world traveler. I now understand that this is only because my daddy was there to literally hold my hand so I didn’t get lost or make any wrong turns. I became aware of this after coming extremely close (about 1 minute away) from missing my high speed train from Madrid to Valencia. This occurred after a series of unfortunate events including arriving late, not thinking my email confirmation was my ticket, and attempting to navigate the train station with five minutes until take off with two 45lb suitcases. Learning experiences all around.
My orientation day at UVA was not much different. I was settled into my new home for the semester, which is across the city from the university. I was told I take the bus there and back, and my host mom would drop me off. So, I left the apartment and took a deep breath of the city air for the first time and hopped on a bus. I had no idea where I was or what bus we had even taken. This was my first time being anywhere in the city but the train station and the apartment after all. My host mom got off with me, pointed me to the university and left. Everything went really well until I realized that I had to somehow get home. I had no bus pass and no idea where or how to obtain one. I also had absolutely no idea which bus to take, where the bus stations were, or which stop to get off on if by some miracle I found the right bus. After looking at a map I realized that it would be a good hour, hour and fifteen minute walk home. No friends to ask, no cell phone to call, I was completely alone in a foreign city and expected home for lunch. Clueless, I decided I needed to make friends… immediately. So, I befriended the girl next to me who happened to be living one street over from me. I walked an hour and a half home with a few girls and was able to see some of the city. The next day we went and bought cheap cell phones, bus passes, and walked the streets to get our bearings. What was so foreign at first is slowly starting to make sense now. These experiences have made me better with a map, more aware of my surroundings, and probably most importantly have made me some really great friends. Despite being extremely awkward and incompetent at first, I believe that it will all come together soon enough.
During these voyages across the city I was able to see some really cool parts of Valencia. There is an old section of the city which is flawlessly gorgeous. I believe that I will be visiting many of the buildings and churches that I’ve seen later in the semester on field trips with my professors who can explain their meanings more effectively, so stay tuned!
I am living with a woman, Luisa and her 19 year old daughter Marta. They are very kind and it has been fun talking with Marta since she is so close to my age. It is very different than I imagined, though, because I am essentially a border in their house. I do not believe that I will be doing many things with the family besides meals. They give me space, and I am free to come and go as I please. The only stipulation is if I will be missing a meal or if I want one packed for the day I need to tell Luisa. They have had about 15 American students stay with them through the years, so this is nothing new for them. I’m very hopeful that this will be a nice place to live for the next four months.