Monday, March 30, 2015

Savannah and Leonardo Miguel in Toledo, Spain!

Hey guys, my name is Leonardo Miguel and I am Savannah Smith’s dragon. She, and I are currently studying in Toledo, Spain which is right in the center of the country. Though not well known, it was the religious capital of Spain for a while and was settled by the Catholics, Jews, and Muslims at various times in its history. Where she goes, I go (I even have my own special spot in her purse) and I have gotten to experience so many adventures with her. 

My spot in Savvy's purse.
We’ve been to Madrid more times than I can count and even traveled as far south as Malaga which is on the coast of Spain where Savvy is studying. I’ve experienced long car trips, annoying plane rides, and surprisingly short bus rides. I’ve seen her laugh so hard she cried, and cry so hard that the only thing she could do was sleep. I’ve seen her so frustrated that she almost threw her phone and so excited that if she could have flown, she would be halfway to Australia. But my favorite thing I have seen is how much she has grown. When she first came, she was a shy, quiet girl who had very little confidence and didn’t think to highly of herself. Now, two months later, she is like a new person. She has finally accepted that she is an introvert and knows her limits but also knows how to fiesta. She is more confident than I have ever seen her and is finally discovering what makes Savannah “Savvy” and no one else. And I personally think it is all because she went to a country that doesn’t speak English. 

Climbing in Malaga

I feel like people are afraid to go to a country that speaks a language different than theirs because they will have to experience culture shock AND language shock but I can tell you without a doubt that it’s worth it. Why? Because I’ve seen it. Savvy couldn’t have predicted the changes that would appear in her life from this study abroad experience. When she first got here, she didn’t know if she could do it but now, she doesn’t know what life would be like if she didn’t. Sure, the first few weeks are hard. But they were more than worth it. 

A Prince in a Castle in Malaga

Here’s how she knew:
 "Before I came to Spain, I created a benchmark in my head that would say that I made it, that I was successful in Spain. My benchmark was this: to sit around a table with friends from Spain just hanging out and talking and while feeling completely accepted and at ease with them in their stereotypically closed Spanish group. On Saturday February 21, 2015 my dream became a reality. This night, though I was a sick as a dog and shouldn’t have been out, period, I knew without a doubt that I made it, made it to Spain. All it took was a month of confidence and patience to help my dreams become a reality.
I have two amazing friends from UNCG, one quirky classy gal from England, a slew of friends from Mexico, and other countries from around the world. But I don’t only have international friends, I have friends who have grown up in Spain and go to my University. I finally found a group to call home who opened up and let me into their circle of friends. I have a seat in class to call my own, a group to sit with before class in the hall or the cafeteria, a group to text if I am bored and hear about all the crazy drama going on in Spain. And the coolest thing for me is that I feel comfortable with them. All it took was for me to be really extroverted and put myself out there for them to take notice and let me in."

Lost in a Toledo Dream

I hope that if you are considering studying in a country that doesn’t speak your native language that you do and that this post encourages you to follow your heart and chase your dreams. Savvy had a lot of lessons to learn when she got here and the cool thing is that she is still learning. Each day is an adventure full of possibilities of success or failure. Don’t live life regretting things you didn’t do. Take a chance, make a mistake, and LIVE. 

Leonardo Miguel and Savannah Smith
UCLM Toledo
Toledo, Spain

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