Finding My Way





My name is Sierra, and I study foreign languages and education because I’d like to be a language teacher. I’m in my third year at Boston University.

Welcome to my adventure in Madrid, Spain!

Originally, I was supposed to go to Argentina for the summer in 2020, but the program was cancelled due to the pandemic. I was lucky BU offered another program in Madrid, as my biggest goal in studying abroad was to be immersed in a Spanish-speaking environment. After almost 2 years of waiting to go abroad due to the pandemic, it still felt surreal even stepping off the plane. However, I immediately felt more comfortable in the city than I expected – I think the busy streets and colorful subway carts reminded me of Boston. I’m super lucky to be living with a host family during my stay, as I’m able to experience life firsthand as one of Spain’s residents, plus receive a ton of support in finding my way. I quickly realized living abroad means adjusting how you think about every aspect of your day; for me, getting used to eating lunch at 3pm and dinner at 9pm (and trying lots of new dishes), being 7 hours ahead of friends and family on the East Coast, dressing differently than I would in the states, recognizing all of the cultural customs and differences, while training myself to think in Spanish – as living with a host family means speaking in a foreign language 100% of the time. On top of the layers of cultural adjustment, I’ve spent the week preparing for my courses as I would for any typical semester, plus being a little crushed under the pressure of making a solid group of friends and exploring every inch of the city – all within the first few days. Studying abroad is a lot!

But even under the pressure, it’s impossible to not feel excited. I think having the opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture and challenge yourself in this way is one of the best opportunities a person can have. I’d only gone abroad once in my life before for just a few weeks, so I had no idea what was in store for me with BU’s semester abroad program. I’m a first-generation Brazilian-American college student on a scholarship, so navigating my options for study abroad was pretty similar to studying a foreign language. Thankfully I had a lot of support from BU, but I couldn’t believe it when I saw my dream was really coming together.

I think coming from a first-generation background it can be overwhelming accepting any incredible opportunity, whether it’s a scholarship, a college acceptance, or a spot in a study abroad program. The feelings of whether you’ll fit in where you’re going, if you’ll be able to handle it, if you’re good enough, if you deserve it; they’ll all creep in. It was hard for me to shake these feelings my first year of college, and it’s important to recognize them. However, it’s also important to face each of those thoughts and challenge them. When I first started at Boston University, I had to remind myself every day that I did belong there, that I deserved to be there, that it was really all mine to experience. Last night I stood in front of the Royal Palace of Madrid, listening to the harp a man was playing in the street, sipping a raspberry batido, and watched the sun cast an orange glow on a breathtaking monument I’d only seen in pictures. For a teeny, tiny split second, I felt myself stopping to wonder if I really deserved to feel so at peace. But the Imposture’s Syndrome only took a second to come and go, and I smiled, knowing that I was there and that nothing could take away that moment from me, or any of the moments I’m going to experience. It can be hard being the pioneer, the one who sets out on a path not yet drawn. But all of us deserve to reach the dreams we’ve set for ourselves. I’m excited to see all that the semester has in store for me and for my fellow Fund for Education Abroad scholars, as we all set out on the adventures in front of us.