Finding Joy in the Unexpected 

Going abroad was always something I was so sure about going into college, but where I would study was a bigger question. During my first meeting with my advisor, I made a checklist of all the things I wanted in a program such as living with a host family, being in South America, having the mountains and ocean right around me, and much more. I was so specific about not wanting to be in Europe, and I’m not quite sure why. I had this distorted view that if I went to Europe I would have some basic experience, I would be suffocated in a crowded city, and I would be surrounded by too much English, when my goal was to learn Spanish. I wanted something different.  

I had a whole plan ready. I would go to Buenos Aires, Argentina, live with a host family, have the beach on one side of me, and mountains on the other; everything on my check list! I had even put down my first deposit, when all of a sudden, I convinced myself I couldn’t do it. Four months in a new country, 11 hours on a plane, completely by myself…no thank you! Around a month before I was supposed to leave, I switched programs. My friend Danielle, who had the same double major and minor as me, was planning to leave for Seville, Spain, and I decided why not just go with her? We had the same class requirements, were already really good friends, she was living with a host family, and we both were at similar levels of Spanish. Even though I was now going into a program that was in a big European city, with the closest beach and mountain over an hour away, I felt the most at peace I had been all semester.  

After a long, yet exciting, travel day, I had finally arrived in Seville. I got in a taxi and went straight to my host parent’s apartment. I looked out my window simply reflecting on the adventure I was about to have. I looked out and saw some basic-looking buildings, some beautiful and colorful buildings, and so many palm trees- there was green everywhere! I had a lot of expectations going into a city, but beautiful trees, flowers, gardens, and parks on every corner were not one of them. I remember sitting in that taxi so surprised by such a basic thing and little did I know I had many more surprises to come.  

Life in Seville was nothing like I expected. I am not a city person by any means, but I fell in love with where I was so quickly. I never knew how amazing it felt to know all the little streets around you, or the feeling of walking around somewhere so big, yet feeling like it was all yours. Even within the first couple of weeks, I found my places. I had a go-to park where I read and journaled at least twice a week, I had a favorite café for coffee, a different one for sandwiches, and a different one for pastries! I never knew a big city could feel so much like home, yet there I was, feeling like I had lived there my whole life.  

Throughout my trip, or even when I got home, people asked me if I regretted my decision. Would I have been happier if I spent my days on the beach, rather than in a café, or hiking a pretty mountain, rather than laying down on a blanket in a little park, but my honest answer is no. I think Argentina would have been so incredible in its own way, but it’s an adventure for a different time. Three months in Seville came into my life exactly when I needed them to. All my fears of being in Europe, living in a city, and changing my lifestyle went away as soon as I got into that taxi. I wanted different, and my experience was exactly that. I cannot even begin to explain the growth and sense of independence that my study abroad experience has given me, and all of that growth is unique to where I was and who I was with. I would not have wanted it any other way. I believe that everything is what you make of it, and no matter where you are, or how your plans change, you can always find joy in the unexpected, you just have to be open to it.  

Panayiota Veronis (’25) is an Elementary and Special Education Double Major and Spanish Minor studying abroad in Spain at Spanish Studies Abroad in Seville.
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