“I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met — Melody Truong,” read a square magnet on the filing cabinet of my pre-health advisor’s office. It was my first college advising meeting, where I was beginning my twelve-year plan to become a doctor.
Once we planned out my path to medical school, my advisor shared the news with me that I could graduate early or even take a semester to study abroad. Study abroad? Out of the years of planning out my life, I never would have imagined studying abroad.
The next morning, I could not get that quote out of my head, and I decided to seriously consider it. As I considered, I had so many thoughts piling up in my brain: “Why would you want to do that? Do you know how much that would cost? What if you’re not safe? You could be using that time to get into medical school. Just travel later.”
Yet, with all these things telling me, “No, I don’t need to study abroad,” I couldn’t ignore the voice telling me, “Yes” and asking, “What if you do?” For the first time in my life, I listened to that voice, and I asked my advisor what I needed to do to make it happen. It wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth it.
Now, two and a half years later, I could not be more thankful that I trusted that voice inside my head. Since the moment I boarded the flight to Seville, Spain, I have been blown away by everything. Most obviously, the gorgeous sights. Within 24 hours of when I landed, my program gave us a tour of Seville, which is filled with a rich cultural history.
The lovely Plaza de España and Real Alcázar de Sevilla are standouts. And while these are great places to see, I am just in love with the Universidad de Sevilla. This campus is a monument in itself, with beautiful sculptures and statues filling the inside and a fountain in the center. I feel like I go to school in an art museum.
Furthermore, the daily tasks are incredible, like crossing the bridge every day on the walk to campus; seeing well-groomed, tiny dogs on the street; hearing flamenco palmas around every corner I turn; sitting outside of a café; getting excited to dress up every day (because people always look their best here); trying my sweet host mom’s dishes without having a clue what the ingredients inside are. I could go on and on.
This is something that makes studying abroad so worthwhile—moments that pull you away from all you know. These are the experiences I’m going to miss, completely immersing myself in a new lifestyle.
I must admit that last semester before this, I changed my whole trajectory and plan by realizing pre-med was not for me and switching to pre-PT. From someone who had her whole life planned out to almost completely starting over, I was lost and so afraid of the changes that were happening. I didn’t even know if I wanted to study abroad anymore.
It was terrifying to make such a big decision, but I knew it was the right one because of the peace and freedom I felt from making it. And here I am, free. Free from the only life I had known and the only path I thought I could take. I am learning how to have a different perspective on life that I could never have been taught at home.
And yes, I do miss home. I miss my family and community and UT and the great state of Texas, but I have so much that I still need to learn here. For example, my classes here interest and challenge me differently than my math and science courses at UT. The classes are a lot smaller, and the professors are very personable and heavily encourage participation. My classes are Spanish cuisine, music, and theory of flamenco, wine in Spain, and Spanish.
Aside from school, I have found time to reconnect with hobbies that I love, like dancing and scrapbooking. I am also saying “yes” to adventures I would love to do and not letting anxious thoughts about studying pre-health get in the way. Whether it’s grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend or booking a flight to Switzerland, I am allowing myself to do things that I enjoy outside of school. I need to learn how to do that back at home, too. I can’t use pre-health as an excuse to sacrifice my happiness.
After years of preparing for this semester through working, saving, and researching, I can confidently tell you there is no way I could have been fully prepared for studying abroad … and there is so much beauty in that!
With being so comfortable and independent in Texas, it is very humbling to realize you do not know how to buy groceries in a new country, how to ask for the check, how to order food, or how to ask for directions. You feel uncomfortable, arrogant, and alone as you learn you don’t know how everything works, and you must ask for help, and that’s where the growth happens.
I’m growing into a whole new version of myself who knows it’s okay to disagree with others. It’s okay to enjoy yourself. It’s okay to give yourself space. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay not to have a plan. As cheesy as it sounds, that’s what life is about.
I have never taken the time to reflect and work on myself as I have here, and I know I will come back a new and wiser individual. So please, if there is even an ounce of you saying yes, do not ignore it! Study abroad! Your money will come back. Your time won’t.
This post was contributed by Jazzmyn Hollister, a Global Ambassador for Spring 2022. Jazzmyn is a junior public health major studying abroad in Seville, Spain.