I enrolled in the study abroad program initially with one goal in mind: to finish the second tier of the vaunted liberal arts language curriculum. Later I realized that more could be gained from this unique opportunity, experiences and intangibles that could possibly affect my development as an individual. I knew what I could gain, what was at stake, and what my expectations were.
I expected it to be difficult.
The lack of air-conditioning or clothes dryers in the dorms took me by surprise, but didn't discourage me too much. The former was a simple test of my ability to adapt, and the latter was a test of my resourcefulness. Life in a foreign country (and dominated by the use of a foreign language) wouldn't be easy, and I knew it. Academically, the challenge was not surprising. I entered the program knowing that my knowledge of the Spanish language would be tested and developed under pressure. The placement test was understandably challenging and I don't know if I successfully tested into the class that I signed up for initially.
I expected to encounter prejudice.
The United States of America is not a beloved world power, and its image is much-maligned abroad. People have gone so far as to hate the USA for whatever reasons they see fit, and that contempt extends to the country's citizens. I approached the trip knowing that there would be at least one incident, at least one day when I would be targeted simply because of who I am and where I am from. That day was today. It ended an otherwise enjoyable afternoon of beach soccer with a sour note. I said nothing back; I just sat there and listened on that metro ride back to Bilbao as a peasant ranted and insulted me and my friends in his native Spanish.
I expected this.
And I expect to live well and succeed in spite of it.