With a little less than half of my time already over here in the Netherlands, there is one thing that I have learned and will take away from my voyage abroad. Note that I say voyage abroad instead of time abroad, because living in another country for half a year is not simply time passing by, but a journey that will stay with me for a life time.
In my first blog it was quite obvious that I was experiencing being home sick and doubting my capabilities. I was discouraged and afraid of the transition of living in a foreign country, where everyone spoke a foreign language.
This morning, Wednesday March 15th, I woke up to the most beautiful day The Netherlands has offered me (and everyone) since I moved here in January. How did I know the day was beautiful before even opening up my curtains? Because I heard many people at the bar, below my apartment, having a blast … and it was barely 10 in the morning. As I opened my curtains I was ecstatic to feel something that I haven’t felt since I left San Diego, and that was the sun filling both my room and me.
I continued about my morning, looking through my social media platforms when I came across a video of a famous motivational speaker, Eric Thomas (ET). The rest of my blog this time around will walk you through my experience of watching ET ’s motivational videos as well my self reflection of the time I have spent in Europe so far.
“I want to be successful. You will feel pain. It will hurt along the way. Here is the beautiful thing about success— there is enough space for everybody, but not everybody has what it takes.”
Before starting my time at San Diego State, I would always reiterate to myself that I wanted to achieve my wildest dreams while I was in college. I would constantly remind myself that I didn’t want to graduate SDSU regretting how I felt that I didn’t accomplish much in comparison to my peers. And although my peers, SDSU faculty and staff, and mentors shared with me how astound they were/are of my achievements, I never felt a sense of personal satisfaction. Some might call it being hungry for more success and accomplishments.
Studying in Europe, I hoped, was finally going to satisfy my hunger for success (momentarily). As a native who has spent all of his life in San Diego, I grew up and watched a majority of my closest high school friends move away for college. One of the only cons SDSU ever brought to me was not allowing me to be fully independent. The opportunity to travel to a different country — and continent at that — was going to bring about the challenge of me being fully independent and, ultimately, be my first steps to personal success.
Thomas continued in his video about expressing that with success comes adversity and emotions. His talk about what it takes to be successful was a reminder to me that the personal adventure and growth that I have experienced during my time abroad is normal. When I find myself in a wave of being homesick and simply want to cry, I should. And although I have only found myself crying once since abroad, I would be a fool to say I didn’t feel better after doing so.
As I sat in my room today and reflected on my experience in Europe, I realized two things. I realized that I am right where I am supposed to be and that while building on my own successes and fulfilling my dreams, I am inspired to inspire others to do push towards their own successes, no matter what pain it may bring.
Although not as in tune with my religion as maybe I should be, I am a firm believer that there is someone above who continues to remind me that I am exactly where I need to be — and it is not simply fate. About two weeks ago a group of my closest friends and I found ourselves in the beautiful neighboring country of Belgium. We explored the streets, food, and culture of two cities — Brussels and Bruges. And although my friends Rebecca, Iman and Kayla would like to express why they enjoyed Brussels better, I would argue that Bruges has been hands-down my favorite city in Europe thus far.
Although some of my European peers would describe it as a “Disneyland city”— one that is really just appealing to tourists— I begged a differ. I must admit, although the city of Bruges does give off a “Disneyland city” feel, I experienced something there that still sends chills down my spine just thinking about it. After visiting the famous Choco-Story museum, sitting down at Jungle bar for a traditional Mayan hot chocolate, and taking pictures at the city centre, we found ourselves taking pictures at the side of a beautiful cathedral. As we approached the front of the church, Rebecca pointed out that the church was named Saint Salvatore. I was in awe of the connection between my own name and the name of the cathedral I now found myself standing in front of.
However, that was not the only thing that was brought to my attention by Rebecca. She continued by pointing out a poster that was mounted on the bulletin board that read the following: “University of San Diego Choir Performance. Sunday March 5th 15:00-18:00.” It was not until recently that I personally reflected and concluded that there was absolutely no way that I found myself high spirited in Bruges before going to Saint Salvatore, and then coming across the cathedral where USD was performing the exact same day and hour that I was there. If anything, it was a reminder to myself that I was/am exactly where I need(ed) to be.
Although my time abroad in Europe is partially about me growing into this holistic and worldly young man, it is also about paving a path that will inspire and motivate others to turn their dreams into reality. The day you quit dreaming is the day you give up. I always dream about being and doing something bigger than myself and, as crazy as it may sound, my time spent in Europe has/will forever be something bigger than me and my growth and successes.
As a first generation low-income foster youth, I have found myself to be a friend, colleague, peer, mentor, older cousin, etc, and although I may be the one living through my journey in Europe and getting the opportunity to travel to many countries and experiencing different cultures and communities, I continue to share my pictures and stories with others in hopes that they inspire and motivate those younger (and older) than me to live up to their dreams. As an older cousin to many, I know the things that my younger cousins may find themselves influenced by — some of those influences being good, while other influences may lead them down a wrong path. And although motivated to inspire younger family members, I also hope that the message is taken well to others who feel they can relate.
The many countries, cities, and monuments I continue to visit while abroad have strengthened my motivation to remind others that it doesn’t only have to be me experiencing these opportunities, but it can be them as well.
To further my point, and wrap up this blog post, I want to touch upon my most recent journey. This past weekend I found myself in the beautiful and exotic country of Greece. Through my time there I found myself roaming the streets of Athens, as well as the islands of Hydro, Poros and Egina.
Fun Fact: Poros is the only Greek island where vehicles are forbidden; people instead utilize donkeys for transportation.
Not So Fun Fact: There was an ample amount of stray animals that roamed the Greek Islands.
Back to my story. I found Greece to be one of the most hospitable countries I have ever visited. Although many residents find themselves speaking very broken English, I must say that their effort to communicate with tourists is excellent. The history and culture in Athens was so rich and heavy, that at times I found myself overwhelmed. To go into the New Acropolis museum, visit the Acropolis monument, Dionissos Theatre, Herodes Theatre, Aeropagus, etc. was overwhelming and culturally moving for me because many of these monuments and locations date as far back as the BC era.
While visiting these very well-respected and well-known locations and monuments, I found myself more fascinated by the lifestyle of the Greek people. Many were extremely easy-going and welcoming to foreigners, while others (including children) panhandled and utilized the tourism as a form of profit. One of the days that my hostel roommates and I sat down for a gyros lunch (DELICIOUS!) we were approached by a younger girl who could not have been any older than 10. As though she was only trained one phrase in English, she reached out her hand to us and said: “Yes Please. One Euro. I would like food. Please Mister, one euro. Kind Mister, Please.” and repeated.
Unfortunately, in prior days we were told by locals how we may find ourselves in a similar situation. And although we would wish to contribute to this child’s cause, they recommended we didn’t because more times than not the child was collecting money for a parent, rather than himself or herself. Sure enough, after trying to receive funds from us, she successfully utilized the same phrase on another tourist, and sure enough walked away from the food place, rather than in it.
I share this experience with others because, as foreigner, (and an American at that) I wish that many others would take the opportunity one day to see the array of diverse cultures and lifestyles there really are in this world, rather than remaining in our bubble of comfort.
Next Stop: Nine Day Excursion through Germany and Belgium.
Until next time,
Salvador Terrones is an interdisciplinary studies in three department (IS3D) student with an emphasis in SDSU leadership, counseling and social change, and a social work major. He is studying Spring semester at Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication in Rotterdam, Netherlands.