I first met Maria in a busy Starbucks in downtown Chicago right after rush hour. I remember walking around scanning the room for a girl who looked “Spanish.” I wound up spotting her eventually, and remember thinking that all my anxiety about meeting her was pointless because she was so sweet. That was almost two years ago! Little did I know that it would be the beginning of an amazing friendship.
A Little About Maria and Her Wanderlust
Maria was born in Madrid, but all of her family is from Cadiz (a beautiful southern city in Spain). She recently graduated from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid en CIU with a degree in Architecture. She is a sweet, kind and hilarious friend. Her travel and determination to master the English language inspire me every time I see her.
While Living in Chicago
She was only living in Chicago for a few months. While she was there my roommate at the time and I developed a fast friendship with her. She was fun and up for anything. Whether that was staying out until 4am (little did we know this was nothing compared to fiestas in Spain) or painting our nails and watching One Tree Hill on our living room floor. When we had to say goodbye to her at the end of the summer, I knew that we would not be seeing the last of one another… and boy was I right.
Study Abroad Programs
Erasmus – Study Abroad for Either a Year or a Semester
Erasmus, for those of you who don’t know, is a European study abroad program where Europeans are able to go to other countries to study for either a year or a semester. This has amazing study abroad programs for college students.
Maria, with her hunger for traveling, decided to study in Zagreb, Croatia (talk about a culture shock!). While there, she really developed her English speaking skills because all her classes were taught in English and this was the primary language of communication amongst the international Erasmus students. From Croatians, she experienced kindness and generosity that she had not expected. In addition to this, living with people from all over Europe allowed her to learn a lot about cultural differences and customs, too! Overall, this experience really shaped her passion for wanting to travel and live abroad and experience even more different places and people… which leads us to her next adventure.
Nepal and IAESTE – International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience
After Erasmus, Maria returned to Madrid to finish up her studies, but she could not seem to shake the yearning for different worlds. After some consideration of her options, she has decided to do join Iaeste in Nepal, India. IAESTE is a group that helps young professionals find international work experience opportunities, so Maria will have a chance to utilize her degree in Nepal while gaining experience.
This will be the most “foreign” country that Maria has been to yet, with different languages, traditions, religions, and style of life. She assumes that the way of living will be more relaxed than in Madrid. She will be lacking certain amenities that here she considers basic (think working electricity).
For her, these challenges are exciting and what makes traveling worthwhile. Learning how to change your routine (food, weather, clothes, everything) is a humbling and very eye-opening experience for her. She is excited to add Nepal to the list of places abroad that she has lived. Each place she goes leaves an imprint on her mind. She constantly thinks back to the cities, friendships, and memories that she has made in all those unique places.
What does the Future Hold for this Young Traveler
Where does she see herself in the future? Eventually, she thinks she might want to settle down in Madrid, but I think she put it best,”What I want to do in the future is always changing. What I tell you today will be different than what I would tell you tomorrow. We are free and we are young… I do not have anything keeping me here at the moment, so why not go explore?”
A year after meeting Maria in Chicago, I decided to travel to Spain. Since my arrival here, we have seen each other so many times that I have lost count! Seeing her improvement in English from when we first met her in Chicago, has truly been an inspiration to me in my own Spanish language development. As I am getting ready to say another goodbye to my adventurous friend, I take her words to heart. Whether it is across the Atlantic, the Mediterranean or the Arabian Sea, she will continue inspiring me. Those around her will explore the world one crazy culture at a time!