Written by Valerie Rosas
As I reflect on my semester abroad from the comfort of my own home, I think back to where I started. Everything has a beginning, and, as you know, mine began with a postcard. I hope to have inspired someone just as much, if not more, than that postcard inspired me. If a spark was not created through my words, then it may have been through my photographs.
It has been an honor to be this semester’s Georgia Tech-Europe blogger. I was gifted with the ability to influence a diverse community, whether it be a second-year mechanical engineering major or a young girl in high school eagerly hoping and dreaming to be able to call herself a Yellow Jacket one day. It has truly been a privilege to be in this position and share my story on this platform. Even though my “story” in question only consists of the last four months of my life, it encompasses so much more than that. Under the surface, you can hear the voice of a grandfather telling his granddaughter that she has now seen and done more than any other member of their family or watch the tears roll down an immigrant mother’s face as she reassures her sacrifice was not done in vain. A low-income, first-generation Latina made it to France and back. This blog is her testimony.
Since I have been back home, so many people have asked me how my experience was. I find myself struggling to find an answer every time. How does one answer such a grand question with a simple response about a four-month-long roller coaster of an experience? The answer is you can’t. I always end up going on a tangent whether I choose to focus on what my greatest takeaway was or what my favorite city was. However, the best way for me to properly portray how I feel about the experience is through the depiction of light.
Light has many symbolic meanings dating back to ancient times. It has been thought to symbolize life, understanding, intelligence, etc. “Light is one of the oldest and most meaningful symbols, found in cultures and religions worldwide…… in Hinduism, light has a special significance, especially during Diwali or the ‘Festival of Lights’ when the triumph of light over darkness is celebrated,” according to The National Gallery in London. On the other hand, darkness is thought to symbolize things like emptiness, ignorance, sorrow, and death. As my time at Georgia Tech-Europe went along, it was like the brightness scale on my life went up. I saw things more clearly, in technicolor, and brighter. The personal growth I experienced in my life is being portrayed by light. The symbolic representation of the gradual increase in light and color slowly reveals how I have developed as an individual.
I can’t stress enough how rich in value this experience was. I discovered what truly makes me happy, what I cherish the most as a constant in my life. Similarly, I noticed what I took for granted and the size of the void it would create. I learned how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Living abroad forced me to be more independent than I had ever been before, but it also taught me the importance of balance. Living alone showed me how to be self-sufficient and care for myself and my needs without being able to rely on others like my parents. On the contrary, being in that kind of vulnerable state requires that you also recognize when it’s time to seek help. Whether it was through highs or lows, we were rewarded with many fruitful lessons. There is merit in overcoming setbacks such as the fortification of resilience and strength. It took me what felt like an eternity to get acclimated to my new lifestyle abroad. Everyone around me looked so happy to be there when inside I felt like I couldn’t adjust to it. However, this showed me the value of intrinsic motivation and the power of a positive mentality that led me to believe I could face the unknown with a newfound confidence. Sometimes in life, the most intimidating opportunities can be the most rewarding and a leap of faith could take you there.