There is a saying, “out of great sadness comes great joy” even though at the time, I did not know this saying to be true, seven years later, I can confirm that it is true. I’ve had a passport since I was born, and I thought that was the norm. My first experience with international travel came from the summers spent abroad in El Salvador. That was the one thing I looked forward to in the summer.
During my summers abroad, I knew I would be out every day of the week, and I would be in the country. I was able to have a pet, even if it was just for the summer months. It was the time when my family and I would spend every minute of every day together; as a child, that was all I wanted.
Fast Forward to 2014, I was away at college. My parents had asked me to look for flights for our much-anticipated summer vacation. We got flights and went to El Salvador, but it was far from a vacation. Some girls have their “summer,” but I felt like I never had mine. The summer of 2014 changed my life drastically. It was the summer that shaped me, but also the summer that ruined me. During that summer, my love for El Salvador started to feel like resentment because my summers were no longer going to be the same. I had lost my father, and my family was broken.
I was shattered.
My greatest sadness.
My lowest moments.
As a young adult in college, I was navigating many new things, college for one, grief, love, and the ultimate heartbreak. I wanted to find my space and community, but I always felt inadequate and let the negative things consume me. During these moments, I did not want anything to do with anyone. I started to look for ways to escape. All I knew was darkness. I found a possibility, and I ran with it. I did not have the means for it but knew I had to find a way.
It was now November of 2014, and I so desperately wanted out. Everything in my hometown would remind me of my dad and my first love. I was going crazy, and no one knew. Just like no one knew, I was determined to get out and leave, so I did what I was always scared of doing and applied to three study abroad programs. I applied to study in Cuba, Austria, and Portugal. In my head, I thought, “one of them has to accept me.”
So I began thinking about the programs that made sense. I always dreamt of Cuba. After all, I was a poly sci major. The rich history and culture fascinated me. I wanted to go. I needed to go. Then came my second choice now; I am not proud to admit that I allowed matters of the heart to dictate my decision, but I did. I was head over heels for this guy, and I thought maybe if I learned the language and more about the culture, we could make it work. Spoiler- it didn’t work out for me, but I learned the language and got to live in Europe. Like fall out boy says, #Thanks4thememories
The third program I applied to was the Salzburg Global Seminar. I applied to this last because it was not even on my radar. After one of my classes, journalism 175, my professor, Susan Moeller, pulled me to the side. She saw something in me and asked me to apply. I met her in her office. I felt a lump in my throat when she showed me the requirements. I did not meet the GPA cutoff. I explained that I had left mid-semester due to my dad’s passing and fell behind. She encouraged me to tell my story and to apply anyway. The worst that could happen would be they don’t admit me. So I applied.
It wouldn’t be until months later that I would get the news that would change my life forever.
To be continued…