University of Iowa

Student Reflection on Race and Ethnicity Abroad: Connecting with My Roots

September 5th, 2017
Diversity Ambassador Taylor Limas

During my study abroad experience in Madrid, I was thankful for the sights I saw, the people I met, and the journeys I went on. But one of the most gratifying experiences was being able to find myself and identify with my Hispanic background. I felt as though a part of me that was empty for so long was finally filled.

My Hispanic background comes from my father’s side and, growing up with a single mother, I was never able to identify well with my Hispanic roots. Before going abroad, I expected to learn new things, eat different foods, cherish different moments and hopefully be in touch with the Spaniard culture. But what I didn’t know was that studying abroad in Spain would change my entire outlook on the world, my own identity, culture, and even politics.

I found myself falling in love with the language, which I never thought would happen. As a Spanish minor and having family members who speak Spanish, I was never able to carry a full conversation without feeling embarrassed or afraid I was going to make a mistake. Being abroad in Spain, Spanish was apart of my everyday life and that was something I missed out on as a child. I felt a part of something bigger than myself whether it was the language or the culture, it was gratifying.

Challenges faced me everyday. They were everywhere, language barriers, cultural differences, different hand gestures, different customs, etc. But what I found was that these challenges taught me different things. I learned that every culture has different customs and there was nothing wrong with being different. The most unexpected challenge that I had was the language barrier. I wasn’t confident enough in speaking Spanish and it proposed many problems for me. But the people of Spain were very patient with me, and overtime I realized that making mistakes only improved my Spanish.

Spain is a very diverse country, one of the many reasons why I loved it. The people of Spain hold such strong traditions that I greatly admired. Their culture is close-knit, traditional, family-orientated, and religious based. I recognized a lot of their cultural differences and took some of them home with me. It surprised me how much I identified with the Spanish culture. I felt a sense of belonging and made my own home away from home right there in Madrid.

But what I left Spain with was a new outlook on the world and it was this: people all around the world are different, believe different things, different Gods, speak different languages, have different customs, and I am just as different to them as they are to me, but it’s the difference in us all that makes us quite the same.

Sincerely,

Taylor-Nicole Limas

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