More than stamps on my passport


Emely Navarro

Photo of Parc Güell in Barcelona by Emely Navarro

by Emely Navarro, International Staff Writer

Over the past four months I have written several articles as an international staff writer for The Daily Aztec. These articles largely consisted of me offering travel advice based on my personal experiences in Italy, Scotland and Belgium.

I wanted to publicly prove that I was having an amazing time studying abroad, because that’s what you are supposed to do: showcase all of the good with none of the bad.

It was not until last week that I realized this approach was not doing me any good.

My first two months in Europe were great. I did probably too much traveling and I was able to relax and just do nothing for the first time in two years.

Slowly, as my money started dwindling and as I had more time away from everyone, I realized I was not having as much fun as my Instagram page showed.

I felt alone, and whether I liked it or not, I was homesick. I was denial about this for a long time.

I usually am not one to get homesick or admit to it, but I definitely felt it. Seeing videos of my friends from San Diego hanging out brought me both happiness and sadness.

Phone calls with my boyfriend left a hole in my heart because of how much I missed him and talking to my mom became an everyday activity.

The first two months I distracted myself with so many trips, I neglected how I was feeling inside and when it hit me, everything became hard.

It started when I began to compare myself and my experience to other people at my school.

During my time abroad in Europe, I rarely went out to clubs or bars with my friends.

Besides my trips to other countries, I barely left my apartment.

Because I was being uncharacteristically anti-social I thought something was wrong with me.

I kept thinking, “I’m supposed to be going out all the time, making friends and having the best time of my life.”

But I wasn’t.

Two of my four friends in Spain constantly bothered me with questions asking me “Why don’t you go out with us? You’re 20 and in Europe, you should be going out!”

I would explain to them why I did not want to but they would continue to ask, thinking that they might be able to chance my mind.

No matter how many times I told them I hated going out to clubs until 7 a.m., because that’s the time the clubs close in Spain, or how I hate always taking care of drunk people or getting dressed up for the same pointless party, they did not understand.

Unknowingly, they were only making me more homesick and causing me to question myself and my decision to study abroad.

Aside from the amazing countries I got to visit, nothing about this trip was special.

My classes were more interesting at San Diego State, I had more friends and a job, while here I don’t have any of those things. I drowned myself in self pity and regret.

I started counting the days until I returned to the United States and I started staying up later to talk to my friends on the other side of the world.

I would wake up after 2 p.m., eat and watch Netflix all day, not leaving the house and neglecting my feelings.

Then slowly, all my emotions began falling on me as I kept asking myself, “Why did I study abroad?

I gave up a lot to do this. I gave up the opportunity to possibly get a higher position in The Daily Aztec, a summer internship, a job, my boyfriend, I may or may not graduate on time and for what? Besides the stamps on my passport have I gained anything?

I spent so much time thinking I regretted coming here because what I left behind seemed a lot more than what I was getting in return.

I thought because I didn’t have the stereotypical study abroad experience that I came here for nothing, but that is not true. 

There is a lot more to studying abroad than the parties and traveling. But I didn’t realize how much I had changed on this trip.

I definitely became more independent and self-reliant. Unknowingly, I learned a lot about the Spanish culture.

Although the classes here are dull, learning about journalism in another country opened my perspective and made me realize what an influence journalism has across the world.

It also made me realize how fortunate I am to study journalism in a country with an abundance of  jobs, because Spanish journalists do not have the same luxury.

I also learned how unhealthy it is to compare myself to others and try to impress everyone.

I realized at the end of the day the only person I have is me and I need to be happy.

There is no one else I should please or impress except me.

I need to do things that benefit me. I need to listen to my gut even when that impulse may upset or a shock to others. 

It was a hard lesson that took months to learn, but I am glad I learned it here.