March 30, 2016 Edition

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WRHS grad soaks up culture,
history during study in Spain

Aubree Hughart (center) and friends, Madison Rose and Maddy Weiner, visit Frigiliana, Spain, on a group excursion.

(Editor's note: Aubree Hughart is the daughter of Bro. Dale and Gala Hughart of Walnut Ridge. She is a 2015 graduate of Walnut Ridge High School and a freshman at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.)

Aubree Hughart
Guest Writer

It has been about 45 days since I traded in the comfort of Arkansas State University's campus and the idea of a "normal" freshman year for a semester spent living in a small Spanish village in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and every single day has been a breathtaking adventure.

I've hiked up mountains to castle ruins right here at my new home in Lanjaron, Spain. I've stepped outside my comfort zone on a daily basis. I've visited monasteries, mosques, cathedrals and churches all around Europe. I've learned more about history and culture in the past six weeks than I had in the previous 18 years of my life combined.

I've navigated the London metro and stood outside of Buckingham Palace. I've taken a swim in the Mediterranean Sea and have sunk my feet into the beautiful black sand on the coast in Nerja and Malaga. I've seen the sun set over The Alhambra, an ancient Moorish palace in Granada. I've ridden through the canals of Venice and dined on the banks of the Grand Canal. I've tasted the delicious cuisine of the Tuscan hills and gotten lost in the Medici Palace in Florence. I've seen the Colosseum in Rome and have stood in awe in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

Before I return to America in mid-May, I'll have stood at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, toured concentration camps outside of Berlin, visited the United Nations Palace in Geneva and celebrated my 19th birthday in the bustling city of Madrid.

The opportunities here are endless, as is the culture shock every time I visit somewhere new and foreign. I've made some amazing friends who I have the pleasure of traveling the globe with and with whom I share inside jokes, memories and laughs that no one else would understand. I've learned Spanish, which you pick up on pretty quickly when you're in a village of 4,000 people where less than 20 of them speak an ounce of English.

I've gained an independence that I would never have gotten to experience in my hometown and a confidence in my ability to live life on my own and as an adult. I mean, if I can navigate planes, trains, buses, boats and taxis, then surely I can get myself around Arkansas.

People always ask me if I'm homesick... Sometimes I do find myself missing what we call "the familiar" - my friends and family, my car, fast food, the ability to run to Walmart for literally anything I could possibly need and my wardrobe (just imagine living out of one suitcase for three months). During these times, I always find myself repeating the phrase, "Aubree, you're in EUROPE," and those feelings fade pretty quickly.

I'm so grateful that I've had the opportunity to experience so much at such a young age. I'm also very thankful that I go to a school that promotes and provides funding for study abroad opportunities like this one. Although I'll be excited to return to Arkansas, the thought of ever leaving the place and the people who have become my new home is bittersweet.

I write this piece while eating fresh fruit from the local market and sitting atop our castle ruins on a blanket I purchased from the humble man at the loom shop up the road from our hotel. As I ponder my experiences, I can't imagine going back to America and never returning to this beautiful place. I've left parts of myself and made memories all over this continent, and although I still have six weeks left here, I'm already anxiously awaiting the day I'll get to return.

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