Pals & Paella: A Valencian Experience

In all honesty, studying abroad has been surreal for me, a chance to reset my priorities and adjust my goals. Even when I was younger, I always knew that world travel was something that I wanted to pursue, and studying abroad was the perfect opportunity to do just that. My mom had always told me stories of her time studying abroad and the many places that she visited, and the experiences that she brought back with her.

I wanted that… I wanted my own memories, my own experiences.

Being from a small town, I was used to everyone knowing who I was and having that feeling of comfort in a place that I had known my whole life. I’d traveled with friends and family, but I was never gone for more than a few weeks at a time. So, of course, I was nervous and anxious about making new friends and living in an entirely different country on the other side of the world. I don’t think this fact fully hit me until about a week into my semester here in Valencia.

I know it may be cliché to say that this study abroad experience has already changed me for the better, but it is the truth.

The vibrant culture of the city, the incredible food and the kind-hearted people have made me feel so at home these past few weeks. From taking a stroll through the shopping center in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, grabbing a napolitana de chocolate (a personal favorite) in the Central Market or reading a good book on the sands of the Platja de Llevant, living in Valencia has been more than I could’ve hoped for.

In terms of the people of Valencia, they have welcomed me with open arms. A few of my friends here live with a host family in the center of the city. On the first day that I visited their home, they made me feel like family and their place has become a regular hangout spot for my roommate and me. Home-cooked dinners and movie nights there are unmatched.

I’ve ventured so far out of my comfort zone these past few weeks. Booking trips with friends I’ve only known for a month, meeting other world travelers in hostels, listening to street musicians on the steps of a cathedral, cracking jokes with waiters at my favorite restaurants, walking through art museums viewing famous paintings by Picasso and Velázquez, getting the full “paella experience” from La Barraca de Toni Montoliu, and playing pick-up beach volleyball games after class are experiences that I know I will never forget.

So, if you are thinking of studying abroad, but you’re not sure if you should jump in and take the risk, I’m begging you to jump in anyway. I promise you won’t regret it.

Lindsey Golwitzer is a college student at Iowa State University. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Valencia, Spain.

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