This study abroad experience has greatly influenced what I want to do with my life. It has confirmed what I thought I knew I wanted to do beyond a reasonable doubt and given me a push in the right direction. I needed this opportunity to go so far out of my comfort zone that I recognized the importance of what I was doing before.
Since my second semester of college I have always been overwhelmed with things to do. I love this lifestyle of always being active, constantly trying to balance the many important things that really must be finished, and at the end of the semester being able to look back and feel like I’ve accomplished something. From MassPIRG, to Sunrise, to SGA, to Model UN to frisbee I’m kept on my toes at all times and I definitely prefer it that way. Between all of these things I’ve always felt like I was making some sort of “difference.” Whether it was running the new voters project for MassPIRG in which we registered over 550 students at UMD to vote in the 2018 midterm election, or talking about international issues at Model UN, there has always been a problem to solve, and I have always been up for the challenge.
My first Friday in Spain fell on September 20th, the same day as the International Climate Strike led by thousands of young activists around the world. The semester before I left I co-led a Green New Deal Town Hall with Esmeralda Bisono and witnessed students and local leaders present about how the climate crisis affects local communities, labor, low-income communities, and everyone nation-wide. We discussed the necessity for the Green New Deal that will create thousands of new jobs and completely transform our transportation, agriculture, and all other ways of life. This semester some of my peers put on a Climate Walkout at UMD. Missing it was heartbreaking, but watching the livestream filled me with so much emotion. Seeing all the student leaders I’ve come to know over time speak about the importance of taking action on the climate crisis and how it’s affecting our campus, our students, and our community was empowering. Watching on my phone was sufficient in the moment, but a part of me felt as though I wasn’t doing enough. Here I was, stuck in a foreign country where the politics will only affect me for the three months I am here, but I was watching as over one hundred students at my college campus took action to show administrators on campus and politicians worldwide that we are done waiting for them to do things on their timeline. This moment made me realize how passionate I truly am about ensuring America makes drastic changes to the way they do so many things.
Right before I left for Spain I started working on an initiative to create an infrastructure within our campus to register voters. Voting has always been a passion of mine, and so when a peer reached out to me saying that the Sunrise hub on campus was going to start registering voters I knew I had to help out. I ended up organizing 2 different information sheets about how students should go about registering voters and skyped into their weekly meeting where I answered questions and went over the process of how to register students to vote. Doing this made me realize how much I value the work I had been doing back at UMD. I’ve loved this time in Spain and being able to experience life in a new way, but at the same time, I am so excited to go back and continue the hard work there is to be done at UMD. When I get back to the US, I am jumping straight into preparation for voter registration in the spring. I love that the work never ends in the US and that I have more of a personal connection to the work there. I care about democracy being accessible to all and about ensuring that my generation understands the impact of their vote and who they elect to represent themselves.
I have loved being able to learn about the Spanish election, and I’ve had conversations with my host family about who generally votes for what party and their opinions of American politics. When I came home from frisbee the other day my host mother and her daughter had the debate on and I got to watch the format of their debate (turns out it’s basically the same as our own but with no women running instead of two). I’ve been trying to reconcile with this feeling like I’m not doing enough about the things I care about in America with the feeling of this amazing opportunity I have in front of me to learn so much more about another culture and language and community that is changing my perceptions about things everyday. With the reelection in Spain coming up this Sunday it has been wonderful seeing all the signs and propaganda for each candidate, it’s made me feel like I am back at home with all the politics that surround me. I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity I have to study abroad, but I’m ready to get back to work. I’m ready to focus on voter turnout and I’m ready to collaborate with my peers to make meaningful changes on campus. There is always more work to be done and I am ready to get back to action.
In my explanation of my work on campus I hope I’ve made it clear that that is the kind of work I want my career to center around. I want to use my new skills of the Spanish language to be able to communicate with more people and my passion for social justice and voting to work with nonprofits and NGOs in their fight for a more equitable and fair future in America. I’m not entirely sure what organization I want to work with, but I know the main ideas of what I want to see in a mission statement of the future community I work with. Coming to terms with a passion you’re not sure about is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever felt. I now know that I can and will spend the rest of my life fighting for a better world and I have a better idea of the standards we can and should hold America to. My future is going to be full of hard work, but I am looking forward to every single moment of it.