By Mollie Bradford
Bradford is a Tupelo High School graduate and current student at the University of Mississippi. She spent her spring 2018 semester studying abroad in Bilbao, Spain.
I have wanted to visit Europe for as long as I can remember. Time and time again I pictured myself strolling along cobblestone streets among beautiful buildings, eating
exotic food and listening to languages I had never heard before.
I vividly imagined its rich history and romantic scenery. I was certain adventure awaited me across the ocean. As evidence that dreams do come true, I have been studying abroad at Deusto University in Bilbao, Spain, for three months with two months left. It is everything I imagined it to be and more.
I first fell in love with Bilbao as soon as the plane broke through the clouds to reveal the vibrant green mountains leading to the ocean. My love continues to grow everyday as I wander through the city, learn the culture and meet the people. I go on runs alongside
the river through the center of Bilbao, eat pintxos or tortillas de patatas in the old town, and see modern art in Bilbao’s world-renowned Guggenheim Museum. I can go on a six-hour hike in the surrounding mountains or take a twenty-minute metro ride to the beach.
Even on days when I simply go to class and return home, I am amazed by my surroundings and the newness of the air I am breathing.
I arrived to Bilbao two weeks earlier than the semester began to take an intensive Spanish course at Deusto University. My classmates were from Brazil, England, Sweden, Slovakia, France, South Korea and Russia, making me the only American in the group. We bonded throughout the course as we compared languages and cultures. I had never been around people so different from me, yet so accepting of who everyone was.
At Ole Miss, it’s easy for my classmates and I to live in a bubble. For many of us, our parents and grandparents — and sometimes even further back — grew up down the street from one another or knew each other from their own college days.
While I love making these connections with the people I come across at home, it is enlivening to meet so many people from all over with backgrounds completely different from mine. I feel that I have learned more about the world just from conversations with my new friends than I have ever learned before. They, along with my Spanish host family, and simply living life abroad, have further opened my eyes to the wonders and excitement of the world.
I could not be more thankful for the opportunity to experience life outside of the routine in which I had grown so comfortable. I have a heightened appreciation for life, people and learning. My semester abroad thus far has taught me how to treasure the differences in the world, and I am excited to see what the next two months have in store.