By Janessa Rutiaga
Assistant Web Editor
I’ve never felt Hispanic, not truly. In a sense, it was like I wasn’t Hispanic enough. Growing up in the Rio Grande Valley, I always felt a little disconnected to my culture. It wasn’t until I was a freshman at Texas State that I realized how much I was connected to it, and that’s when I used it to define who I was. Going through this whole “I am Latina and proud” phase was extremely weird, especially because at the time, during the 2016 presidential elections, racial tensions were at a high.
Because of those two things going on, I started urging myself to go to Spain. I knew that my father’s bloodline was connected to Spain, and it’s where my last name (Rutiaga) originated from. I was so driven to find out more of where I came from, and to find out more of myself, that I signed up for Study Abroad the moment I found out I was able to.
So, this last summer, Texas State gave me one of the most unique experiences I could have ever asked for. Not only did it teach me about myself, but it changed my perspective of the world as well. I traveled in a faculty led study abroad program all the way to – you guessed it– Barcelona, Spain. It was such a wholesome experience, and something I would have never been able to do without Texas State. A girl from a small town (conservative and Catholic, shiver!) was suddenly having sangria on a beach in Spain.
If you’re on the fence about studying abroad, I urge you to do it. I feel like it’s something everyone should do, and Texas State gives you the opportunity to do it with a group of your peers under the guide of someone who’s an experienced traveler. It can be a little pricey, but I felt it was a once in a lifetime type of experience. Texas State does offer scholarships for study abroad, and your financial aid will cover some programs. Your total bill will include tuition, housing and any cultural events that you go to. However, airfare is on your own–which you can totally look at as a good thing because you could stay longer if you wanted to.
If you’re thinking, “But I don’t want to go alone!” get that out of your head right now. I was thrown into a foreign country with strangers, and some of them are now my best friends. It’s truly a part of the experience. I got to make friends bonding at the Sagrada Familia and looking at Picasso’s master pieces. The study abroad groups take a good amount of people, so you don’t have to worry about not making friends or being alone. I can say that most of these people hold a very special place in my heart because I experienced so much with them, good and bad.
I think I got the full experience of my trip. I lived in Barcelona for a little over four weeks. In that time, I was able to navigate the streets of Barcelona (after getting lost countless times), speak Spanish semi-fluently and feel at home in a foreign place. I visited cute beach towns (Tarragona), and saw both Picasso and Salvador Dali’s original artwork. I also visited the town of Girona where season six of Game of Thrones was filmed. We ventured on hikes to Monistrol de Montserrat and the Tarragona Aqueducts. I saw Roman cathedrals and small coliseums built by the Romans in Spain.
I had never left the country before I studied abroad, and I’m very grateful to have done it with Texas State. I learned so much, and not just the courses I took, but also about myself. It was a little eye-opening. I have now urged all my friends who haven’t studied abroad to do it. I don’t think you could ever regret it. Take advantage of your youth, energy and the opportunities given to you right now.
You can research and apply to any study abroad program here.
Featured image courtesy of Janessa Rutiaga.