A closed door is not a locked door. Dejah knew she would have to open some new doors in order to challenge herself and achieve all the goals she has in life. Dejah used her Farther Foundation scholarship to participate in a language and cultural immersion program in Spain this past summer. Dejah is already capitalizing on her experiences having gained admission into Cornell University this past fall. Dejah shared her experience in Spain with us in an essay; Here is some of what she wrote:
“We thank you for flying with us today. Welcome to Madrid!” said the flight attendant overhead.
After touching down in Spain, a mixture of anxiety and excitement began to settle in. It hit me that I was away, alone, without my parents in a foreign country, and I would be there for the next two weeks. I had no access to my cell phone, I couldn’t call people, and my Spanish was pretty choppy; you can only imagine all that went through my mind. I had never experienced what I was about to experience.
Although every friendship or relationship we have with people may have an expiration date, the amount that we learn about ourselves between that time line, will last forever.
The first surprise came with my host family. Mariela, my host mom, had met me at the bus station in Salamanca. She only spoke Spanish, which I loved, because then I was forced to only speak Spanish; that’s really what I was in Spain to do. She cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner for us every day, and every day the food on the table was different. From paella to pork to chorizos to lentils to the Spanish tortilla, every meal was another introduction into the Spanish culture. I love to joke with my roommate that I’d tasted more types of vegetables, meats, and fruits in those two weeks that I had before in a single year.
Speaking of my roommate, her name was Natalia, and she was from Poland. After leaving Spain, it was very hard to say goodbye to someone that I had spent so much time with for the past two weeks. I learned so much from her, about her country, Poland, about herself, about myself, and about the type of relationships we build with people. I realized that we’re always learning from people; from the man in the telephone store who tells me, “No no no chica. No es gracias mucho. Es muchas gracias.” To the children running around Salamanca at 12 am, reminding me never to take life too seriously; we’re really all still kids inside. To my roommate, Natalie, who has taught me that there is really not much of a difference between people; although our skin or hair or language may be different, when it comes down to it all, we’re pretty similar. I’ve come to the conclusion that although every friendship or relationship we have with people may have an expiration date, the amount that we learn about ourselves between that time line, will last forever.
Leaving Spain, I realized so many things that I had never realized about myself. I realized that my life, my home, my city, was just a dot on a map that was a thousand times greater. I now see that the world isn’t just Chicago. The world is made up of students from Poland, Russia, France, Italy. My trip to Spain injected me with an infectious bug to travel; now that I’ve seen more of the world, I don’t ever want to stop. I hope that I can inspire other students to step outside of their comfort zone; go to another country far away and see what it’s like to feel like a foreigner for once. Not only was my mind expanded, but also the four corners I surround myself within. I left knowing that my four corners no longer stopped within the boundaries of Chicago; they surpassed them.
Farther Foundation and the students we serve depend on the tax deductible donations from people like you to make these life changing experiences possible. Visit our website to make a donation online.
Farther Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization providing scholarships to low-income students to inspire them to reach their highest aspirations through educational travel experiences.