Growing up, I was surrounded by people who looked like me…and the Hispanic culture is in every corner of the South Side of Chicago. In school, there was a special bond with classmates and teachers because everyone was able to communicate in English and Spanish. This all changed when I got to college.

This all changed when I got to college. I was suddenly the odd one out. There were a handful of people who looked like me on campus, a Latina woman. After a few months of sitting in on my nursing classes, I realized I was the only Latina student in my nursing class, one out of 48 students. 

Because of COVID, there were a limited number of students who studied abroad in Barcelona, and within that group of 11 students, I was again, the odd one out, the only Latina. I thought to myself, I will get rid of this feeling of being different from everyone else when I arrive in Barcelona. I will be able to freely speak with everyone I want through one common language. And this was true! As soon as I arrived at my homestay, I had this strange feeling of being at home with just that language barrier being gone. 

Throughout my three months living in Barcelona, I did have moments of ups and downs but I left with way more ups and memories that made up for all of those feelings of feeling different than everyone else around me, especially to those 10 other students who I spent the most time with. Now home, I realize how much I have changed for the better. I was able to change those feelings into something amazing. I am a proud Latina on campus and am so grateful I took that decision to study abroad. I refuse to let those feelings of being the odd one out keep me from living my best life. 

Aileen Magafas

Aileen Magafas

Aileen is from Illinois Wesleyan University, and studied abroad through a Customized Program in Spring 2021.

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