This week, we check back in with ACCENT Community College Scholarship recipient Olivia Eggers Friedman, who reflects on how much she has grown up during her last three months studying abroad in Madrid.
As my time in Spain comes to a close, I have found myself reflecting on all the wonderful lessons I have learned from this experience. It feels like yesterday I was leaving for the adventure of a lifetime, but I am a completely different person than the girl who left California in September.
I have bonded with my classmates in a way which would not have been possible if it wasn’t for this setting. I am so grateful for the opportunities to make these friendships. I have noticed that many of the new people I have met in college are more like acquaintances, due to the fact it is difficult to make close friendships without an extensive history together. Study abroad is an exception to this. We have spent three months together almost every day, through the highs and the lows, exploring different cultures, navigating foreign cities and languages. We have grown individually, but this growth is magnified when we come together.
Another thing I am grateful for is the level of academia I received through this program. I’ll be honest, I initially thought this program would be somewhat of a breeze in the classroom, but I quickly learned that my dreams of breezing through school were just that: dreams. The material in my classes was challenging, and sometimes I did not think I would make it through. However, now that I have the privilege of reflecting on my past difficulties, I realize that the rigorous academia has completely transformed me as a college student. I have been at Santa Barbara City College for two years already and taken many classes, but nothing has prepared me more than this semester of study abroad. Prior to this trip, I was uncertain of what I wanted to do with my life, where I wanted to go, and who I wanted to be. I was hoping this experience would provide more clarity to me, and it did, but in ways I never could have anticipated. Leaving America for three months and traveling through Europe was exactly what I needed to put my life at home into perspective. I left for Madrid two days after my 21st birthday. Although I was already living on my own and I had been legally an adult for over two years when I left, I felt like I was in a strange limbo between teenage and adult. Now there is no question in my mind: I am a real adult. I can navigate the world around me with confidence, and most importantly, I trust myself to make the right decisions and learn lessons from my mistakes.
Finally, I would like to thank ACCENT for providing me with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My apartment was incredible— I will never forget the countless mornings sipping coffee on my balcony with a view of the Madrid cityscape. The excursions ACCENT organized for us exceeded my expectations, I would not have gotten the same experience out of the trips had I visited those cities on my own. ACCENT set us up with local guides for each city we went to, providing us with historical information and creating the opportunity for each of us to fully immerse ourselves in the culture. It may sound cheesy, but if there was one experience I could point to in my life which has fundamentally transformed me, it would be studying abroad. The odds were against me: due to my financial situation, I never thought it would be possible to attend a trip like this, but I decided to take my chances and apply for the ACCENT Community College Scholarship. Receiving that scholarship changed my life! I encourage every college student, no matter your age or background, to take the leap into study abroad, I promise you will never regret it.
ACCENT is proud to support the Community College Scholarship as part of our commitment pledge to IIE Generation Study Abroad, a nationwide effort to help more U.S. students gain international experience through study abroad programs.