Learning to get lost without a hand to hold

Bilbao road

Image via Wikipedia

Hola! สวัสดี  Hej!  Ciao!  Olá!  Hello!  今日は  Hallo!  Aloha!  Salut!

I have to admit that I only speak one of those languages (Maybe you can guess?). Hopefully one day I will know at least a little of each, but this is blog is where that journey will begin. My name is Kristi and I moved to Bilbao, Spain about one week ago (January 2012) to study international business with USAC. I left small town Moscow, Idaho, with every intention to see the rest of the world. I knew it wouldn’t happen all in 2012, but I figure I would give it my best shot starting in Bilbao.

I’ve taken Moscow for granted. I’m studying International Studies and my department is wonderful. I am also studying Public Relations and that department is wonderful. I’ve sat down with my advisors countless amounts of time to change my four-year plan. Now when they see me, they get a “Change of Curriculum” paper ready predicting my next move. Hopefully this means they actually enjoy their job, right?

But without their help, I wouldn’t have a clue to where I want to begin my next chapter in five years. For now, we together narrowed it down to working in a public relations or media department in a large international firm. Even though my advisors are only an email away, I don’t have their help in Spain. They can’t tell me what metro to get on, or where the best food is. They can’t give me advice on classes or discuss local events. When you study within a small department, people are holding your hand every step of the way through college.

In Bilbao, however, no one cares: not your landlord, not the bartender, and not the security guard at the metro. It’s up to me to figure everything out on my own. My landlord didn’t care that I didn’t have Internet or adequate kitchen ware or a smokey apartment-so much that I couldn’t see down the hall. The bartender/server at the restaurant didn’t care that they didn’t have vegetarian food or even a menu. And the security guard didn’t care when I couldn’t figure out where to go or how to pay.

One of the first things I noticed in Spain was their lack of free wifi anywhere and everywhere. How was I to check my Facebook, text, Tweet, check in on FourSquare, or find a restaurant on Urban Spoon? It frightened me. Peter F. Drucker wrote in “The Essential Drucker” about an old riddle: Is there a sound in the forest if a tree crashes down and no one is around to hear it? Is there actually food around my apartment if there is no Internet to Google it? It’s up to me to go find it, but how do I do that without Maps on my iPhone?

They say you learn so much about yourself when you study abroad-and that is so very true. It has only been a week and I have learned that someone has held my hand since I was born, I have learned that I’m broke, and I have learned that I take so much for granted back home.

Without anyone’s help, I wouldn’t be here in Spain today. But I’m learning by myself now so I can get by without their help tomorrow. I didn’t come here to experience American culture. I need to learn to appreciate the world’s culture-even if I come home with a black lung and no money. In the end, it will all be worth it.

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