September 20, 2014
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Fortunate enough to have a father who has traveled around the world twice, I have grown up hearing countless stories of adventure in foreign lands. Consequently, the desire to travel was instilled in me at a young age. I find myself intrigued by the diverse cultures, languages and natural marvels around the world, and I dream of following in my dad’s footsteps by setting out with a backpack, one plane ticket and no further plans or reservations. Although my junior year of high school is not exactly the best time to embark on a backpacking trip around the globe, I was blessed with the opportunity to begin my adventures abroad this summer when I took part in a 5-week Spanish immersion program in Spain. After spending four days in Madrid, I lived with a family and took classes in Granada, a small city in southern Spain. Not only did I grow close to a number of amazing kids in my program, but I also got to participate in numerous activities, explore the ancient Arabic quarters of the city and meet a variety of people from around the world. I shopped and bargained in Moroccan markets, jumped off 60-foot cliffs into the Mediterranean Sea, rode horses through the open countryside and took Flamenco dance classes. I tried a variety of new delicacies, engaged in conversation with the locals and had heated debates in Spanish about the issues of our time. My experiences abroad changed who I am. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone everyday. I learned to be more confident, responsible and open to anything new. I grew inquisitive, and wandered through Granada and Madrid with my eyes open, taking in the architecture, people and culture in awe. It was, to say the least, the best experience of my life. But above all came the independence I began to assert by traveling alone. Between four flights and a night spent in Toronto due to bad delays, I was on my own a lot. In Granada, I set aside time for myself, and would explore the city, treat myself to dinner and engage in my favorite hobby: people-watching. You begin to notice more by being on your own, and I have brought these qualities back with me to Calabasas to defy the go-to-the-bathroom-with-a-friend standard and make my own adventures before I take on the rest of the world.