• Chantal Canales

Growing Up Abroad

It's not what you think. I promise.

In the states I am considered an adult. But it wasn’t until this trip to Budapest, Hungary that I truly felt like one. Studying abroad: the cure to a disease I didn’t know I had.

Freshman year of college passed by me like a speeding ambulance on a highway. I could see it, hear it, and feel the gush of wind hit me as it passed. But I don’t think that it showed me all that university life would teach me. In a way I was still like the eager high school senior ready to go a school and learn how to work in the real world. I learned a lot, but I never felt like I found who I am.

But as I began my research about a five-week study abroad program to Budapest, Hungary studying journalism, I began to feel like an adult. I did research on pricing, loans, scholarships and the more interesting topic of the destinations. I signed up for a credit card, ordered checks and booked flights to different cities in Europe. I felt overwhelmed, and I quickly learned that’s the norm of being an adult.

In Europe, I learned more than just journalism. I learned about how to be more aware, independent, open, and more of an adult.

From the first day we landed in Prague to our last night in Budapest, I became more conscious of our surroundings, seeing how my actions were viewed in the eyes of locals. I tried to become more courteous, offering seats on trams to the elderly and holding doors open for people with too many things in their hands. In the words of my great professor, “It’s all about cause and effect.”

Traveling to each new city I felt a growing independence that I didn’t have before, not even in college. Maybe it was the access to the combination of old and new worlds in towns that have existed for centuries, but all I know is that Europe granted me something that a small city like Waco could never offer.

Learning how to be more considerate, more open and more accepting of cultures different from my own became a part of my personal curriculum. The diversity of different backgrounds in the people I encountered taught me that every person’s experiences are valid. Every person, no matter their race, gender, political or religious beliefs shouldn’t be subject to persecution.

I have been able to make some amazing friends on my study abroad experience just by opening up my heart to their backgrounds, thoughts, aspirations and crazy stories. I began to slowly strip away a barrier I had built, a shy exterior that morphed into a somewhat fun and outgoing character that I never knew that I possessed.

Navigating through trams, checking in at hostels, boarding planes and buying groceries for Olivia and I’s bare apartment became our routine. Having only lived on-campus back at Baylor, I felt strange stocking my kitchen with my favorite essentials, locking my door at night and serving as hostess during our group’s movie nights (i.e., every night). Sipping champagne along the Danube in a river cruise or drinking wine certainly aged me, as I would never be able to drink in the states until I was 21.

On this trip, I grew up. Literally, I turned 19-years-old while studying abroad. But that has nothing to do with a celebration with cake and a birthday wish. I grew into a person that I never expected to become. I never imagined this great change within me, but it happened.

And I am so grateful for it.