Western Illinois University: Macomb Campus
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International study is expensive, beyond the financial reach of many students. This concerned Dr. Beatrice L. Wehrly, WIU professor emeritus of Counselor Education and member of Phi Beta Delta, an honorary organization dedicated to improving international education. In 2008, Dr. Wehrly endowed the Bea Wehrly Study Abroad to address this concern. Each year, a $3000 grant is made to a student to study for a semester in another country. The first grant was made in 2008 to a student studying in England, followed by a student studying in The Netherlands in 2009. Leah Trevor, the 2010 recipient, currently studying in Salamanca, Spain, writes back of her experience.
My Study Abroad Experience
Senior, Bilingual/Bicultural Education
2010 Recipient, Bea Wehrly Study Abroad Scholarship
I like analogies. For that reason it may be best for me to compare my study abroad experience so far to a roller coaster ride. Sounds pretty cliché but its very true. Since the butterflies in my stomach flipped and flopped while I watched the sun rise as my plane landed in Madrid, Spain two months ago, I have been up down and definitely felt turned all around.
I have worn the shoes of an alien walking the streets of Salamanca where no one seems to consider me familiar. I have lived a waking dream in which no matter how hard I try I can’t make sense of the words coming out of a stranger’s mouth. I have felt incredibly lonely in a place where everyone is going somewhere, meeting someone, doing something… without me. BUT… I have also been incredibly lucky. I have embarked on a dream that I never ever thought I would be so fortunate to realize.
I have been befriended by people of every age, from France, Holland, Brazil, Mozambique, Canada, Germany, China, Poland, Finland, Sweden and of course Spain. I have laughed and I have cried. I have found the best tortilla in town and finally made a habit of breathing out of my mouth as I pass the Chacenerías. I’ve had conversations about love, politics, dreams and nightmares in a language that is neither my native nor the native of the person with whom I speak. I have lain in bed at night amazed at the fact that each and every conversation I had that day was in Spanish, and I survived! I have wandered around castles (one being where Isabel the Catholic was crowned) and fairy ring forts and walked the same streets as Christopher Columbus.
I have heard my mother’s voice in my head telling me to grin and bear it when something is not going the way I am accustomed to, and I listened. I have found a home far away from home, and I will be terribly sad to leave yet eternally grateful for the teachers I have found and the friends that I have made. I wouldn’t trade this rollercoaster ride for the world and if I was lucky enough to get another ticket, I’d get back on in a heartbeat! Thank you for this wonderful dream come true.