Sometimes it is the answer to the necessity of fleeing, to set oneself free from the psychological and physical pressure of a particular place. Sometimes, however, it is just to visit family who are living abroad, or even just for pleasure. Whatever the reason for it, travelling is always travelling. I was only sixteen when I first visited Germany. Talks were given in my high school regarding international excursions with groups from around Europe and we decided to give it a try. I was a little scared at the beginning as I was very young, and my German knowledge extended no further than merely giving greetings. What I didn’t realise was that this trip would change my life.
There was a group of us from different places: Germany, Austria and Spain, all scholars travelling around the south of Germany, North Austria and Slovakia for three weeks. The English language saved our lives, since it was the lingua franca not just to communicate with each other but also all the people who surrounded us. I had the valuable opportunity to learn a lot about history, culture and music whilst in all of these places. The trip also allowed me to get to know my Spanish friends better, as we were together 24/7. I was also blessed with getting to know two German students, who would become two incredible friends later on in my life.
Many fond memories resulted from this trip and as soon as I got back home to Spain, I felt a part of my heart was missing. This feeling was so strong that one year later, having finished my A-Levels, I decided to move to the South of Germany to volunteer for one year. I was tired of studying and wanted to flee from books and the pressure that identifies academic success with general success in life. I did not want to memorise or write anymore, but instead to give free reign to my hands to show all the love in my heart through volunteering. Here, once again, the English language saved me. However, within a few weeks I found myself being demanded to speak only German and I had to work very hard each day to learn the language. It was very difficult, but now that I look back at this time, I know it was the best thing that could have happened to me.
It was a very challenging year with many new experiences. What was only expected to be a voluntary service paved the way for my first paid job, first own house and first driving experiences. It was independence for the very first time. Moreover, I learnt that it does not really matter whether you truly master a language or not, the key factor is to have a strong personality, not to be afraid and to have a very clear idea of what you want – that is actually the key to travelling. Furthermore, I also learnt to appreciate the love of my family, my city, my language, my culture – that is, I learnt to appreciate my origins.
At the end of the year, I went back home and started university, but it took me only two weeks to walk away from my degree in Tourism and return to Germany. There was a really strong longing for the German culture inside of me which I could not stifle any longer. It was then that I realised there was no going back; I wanted to spend the rest of my life there. Therefore, I went back and learned German, striving to pass the ‘TestDaf’ exam so that I could get into a German-speaking university. I got accepted into all the universities where I had applied; among them there was Innsbruck, in Austria. I remember having the acceptance letter in my bag as my very first German friend drove across the massive German and Austrian Alps with me, on a lovely sunny and warm day. The nature and beauty of the city encapsulated me and here I am now, in the last year of my degree, an official student of Innsbruck University.
Another country, a new culture, different dialects and another mentality and way of living. If I had known back at that time that this talk about international excursions would change my life so much, perhaps I would not have taken the step. However, there was the magic and richness behind the idea of the great unknown, behind the will to get to know this magnificent world that we share. Every travel experience, whether it be for one day or for one year, is a great opportunity to get to know something new: a culture, language, different social behaviours, music or history. Nevertheless, it is also an open door to get to know yourself; your own boundaries, your will, your patience and your habits. If life offers you a moment to travel, do not miss it! It will definitely be a worthwhile experience.