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