In 2004 I graduated high school and at the same time my sister graduated from college. My parents suggested that we take a trip together and backpack through Europe for three weeks. This wasn’t the first time I had traveled outside of the country, but it was the first time doing so on my own, so to speak. Imagine what it was like for a 17 year old from a small town outside of Boston to see the Europe I’d always dreamed of visiting. The history, the culture, the languages.
Once I’d seen the Grand Tour I couldn’t just go back to the farm. I was hooked, and though I didn’t know it yet, it had set a precedent for my life. Through luck and second chances, I was accepted (after initially being turned down) to an exclusive class on Travel Writing and Photojournalism that would spend spring break in Sicily. This was sophomore year, and getting back to Europe while learning how to craft a story about traveling was a dream come true, cliche as it might be.
I knew I was going to study abroad, but had always thought it would be in England or Australia–somewhere where they speak English, because my basic French skills from high school would not suffice. But in Sicily I became inspired to learn another language, and chose Spanish, and Spain, as my next challenge. Rather randomly and with no knowledge of the place, I picked Sevilla to spend five months learning Spanish and traveling all over the continent from long weekends and double spring breaks.
Standing on the cliffs in Lagos, Portugal, a woman asked us where we were from and said we were study abroad students. “That’s how it starts,” she said. She herself was once a study abroad student as well, and was currently teaching in Lisbon for a year. She was right. By the time my semester abroad ended I was just getting comfortable with Spanish and knew I wanted to continue, so after thinking about my options, I chose to do a volunteer year in Ecuador with WorldTeach, again somewhat randomly. I knew nothing about Ecuador and figured it was the best way to learn.
Not too long after getting to Ecuador I knew that after my year ended I wanted to come to Argentina and learn about the place my mom came from. To keep learning Spanish, to keep pushing myself, and to further myself in a career with international relations.
So what’s next? After three years in Latin America I’ve returned to the United States to attend the School of International Service at American University in the Fall of 2011, where I’ll study U.S. Foreign Policy with a focus in Latin America. Even though I’m now back in the U.S. I will continue to write about my experiences of living abroad and what I see now that I’m back home. And since my professional field will be involved with Latin America, you can of course find a related theme here. Also, check my homepage, www.jon-brandt.com for all of my work and experience.