April 2006 – It was 2 months from my high school graduation and my life was about to take a huge turn. After much discussion, my parents and I decided I wasn’t ready for college and I would need some time to mature. The solution? I would defer my admittance to W&M and spend a year in South America where I would improve my Spanish and do some much needed growing up. I was still pretty unsure of this plan, but my dad assured me that college would still be here when I got back.
In September, I arrived in Simón Bolivar International Airport in Caracas, Venezuela. Around this same time, I managed to forget every word I had been taught in the last five years of high school Spanish, which made it surprisingly hard to navigate through customs and the baggage claim.
After I found my host family waving at me in the waiting area, so began the next phase of my life – ten up and down months, which I may never really truly appreciate.
I was enrolled in a local high school where no one spoke English (including the “English professor”) so I would be completely immersed in the language. Essentially, I was thrown to the wolves, and I didn’t really know what to expect. For my first 4 months there, my classes were impossibly hard to understand and socializing was a mixture of Spanglish and sign language. Lonely? Yup. Homesick? You got it.
During my time there, I got horribly lost using the bus system (and I’m talking lost like dead cell phone lost, like only having enough change in my pocket to change buses one more time lost, like wandering the streets at night on the verge of sleeping outside kind of lost), I got food poisoning, and I even had a countdown of the days until my flight left for home. During my time there, I also learned how to appreciate tons of Venezuelan foods, swam in the waters of the tallest waterfall in the world, and even got so close with my host family that I didn’t want to stop hugging each of them before I got dropped off at the airport.
In ten months, I had enough “life-changing experiences” for well, a lifetime. I’m not entirely sure where I’d be today if I’d gone straight to college. It gave me the chance to grow up and see the world, while also gaining a new perspective on life. I’m probably eternally in debt to my dad for convincing me it was a good idea (and for the whole giving life to me, raising me, and paying for my college education thing).
When Fall Orientation started in August 2007, I realized that as promised, college was still here. Only this time, one year older and wiser, I was ready to take the plunge. Turns out that showing up fashionably late to college may be the cool thing to do.