Before coming to Spain, I applied for a scholarship through my host program. The prompt was to reflect on a quote by Alvin Toffler and discuss how I planned to embody its ideas in my study abroad experience.
The quote reads, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
At first the expression seemed too romanticized to actually apply to my life. I wrote my essay in a philosophical tone without actually making a concrete connection to the words.
Now after being away from Erie, I understand the significant strength of Toffler’s words.
By nature people are ethnocentric. Blindly we are molded by our culture to understand the world through a specific set of lenses.
Four months ago, I would have been at my wits end at a fruit stand where I wasn’t able to physically inspect my produce before purchasing it or at a restaurant where I was required to beckon my server in order to receive his attention.
It wasn’t until my study abroad experiences led me outside of Sevilla that I had realized how much growth this semester has sparked in me.
Learning how to be a tourist and then immediately unlearning those touristic tendencies has been the most rewarding skills I have acquired in Spain.
The ability to take in new situations as if they were the beginning of the rest of my life has enabled me to feel a deeper connection with this astonishing country so full of vivacity and traditions.
I have learned that if I take the time to be inwardly moved by a place then I can be a more effective tourist in the way of documenting and sharing my experience.
Just this past weekend my program sponsored a group trip to visit the Alhambra in Granada. The Alhambra is an Arab palace that was renovated out of previously constructed Roman structures in the city of Granada. The Alhambra was once home to the most influential members of the Arab society as well the most prominent site of commerce and prayer in the city.
The intricate ceilings and shallow basin fountains guide tourists with a calm, ominous tone, as they seem to relive the many stories of Nasrid Sultans, Andalucían refugees and the men of the Abencerraje family that met their deaths after being accused of adultery with the king’s primary Saltana.
Outside, the vivacious gardens emit a honey perfume from the Alyssums that grow in abundance near floral and vegetable gardens alike. Here history is seen through the encouraging impression that the remarkable vistas offer.
Standing at the top of the palace the breath traveling from my nose to my lungs seemed to fill with a chemical combination my body had never experienced before containing all of the life, history and philosophy of the Alhambra.
Learning how to travel without the veil of my previously determined judgments has allowed my sense of being to be easily accessible.
In Spain I have been able to experience all of my favorite things again, for the first time. But, after a month of adventure around Sevilla I found my comfort zone.
Fortunately, the mystery of the unknown places I was longing to visit became perfect catalysts for personal discovery.
Riding for hours without seeing a single familiar reference point offered me the greatest perspectives through which I was able to have raw experiences.
A couple of weeks ago I took a trip to a small pueblo outside of the city called Alhama de Granada. As the bus made the three-hour long journey, the flat monotonous desert of olive orchards began to grow over hills that eventually turned into the bravado of the Sierra Nevada.
Our ultimate destination was the bottom of a deep gorge in the pools of natural hot springs that function as places of surreal tranquility and bathing tubs for the local gypsy population.
Here in the bottom of the gorge I felt a connection with the heart of Spain. From what seemed like the center of the earth the cool waters of the flowing stream and the autumn leaves provided a tangible sense of the crisp life that the people of the small pueblos live.
When traveling I am reminded how big the world is and how much there is to explore. How much more I have to learn in my life.
Most importantly I am reminded of how small I am. I found that this is the greatest motivation to maintain appreciation for all the things I may never know.
With these facts examined and remembered my understanding of the Toffler quote has acquired dynamic relevance.