Throughout the novels of “Don Quijote de la Mancha,” whose author Miguel de Cervantes was born in the city in which I studied, the character Sancho Panza transforms through a process of Quijotization — becoming more like his idealistic friend Don Quijote simply by spending a lot of time with him.
Spain has done the same to me — I am undoubtedly more Spanish. The changes are subtle, like the way I pronounce the language, or my new-found liking for coffee and wine. I’ve also learned, or rather reaffirmed, the idea of taking advantage of every opportunity to create memories, accompanied by countless photographs and blog posts.
Studying abroad is the perfect motivator for the mentality of “You only live once.” As cliche as the phrase has become, there is still a grain of truth — that when an opportunity presents itself, you’d better go for it now or forever wish you had.
Whenever a Spaniard serves a meal (whether at home or in a restaurant), I invariably hear the phrase “que aproveche,” before the recipient digs in. Although used here in a manner similar to “bon appetit,” the phrase means more than just “enjoy.” The verb “aprovechar” means “to take advantage of” and became my new motto during my time in Spain. My goal: to live and learn deliberately.
If it weren’t for my reaffirmed carpe diem attitude, I would never have pulled an all-nighter in a London pub while waiting for a flight the day before a midterm. I would never have joined the University Choir and met the prince of Spain. I would never have hopped on countless planes, trains and buses with people I barely knew to travel across Spain and in the process form connections with those people and those places.
One doesn’t have to travel to a far-off land in order to seize the day, although having a set time period in a place is a constant reminder that circumstances can soon change. There are different ways to YOLO (yes, now I’ve made it a verb). My study abroad experience was a long-term, carefully planned method of spending my time wisely. Other times, YOLOing is spontaneous: pushing off studying for an hour to get tapas with friends.
College provides a similar environment for taking advantage of a wealth of opportunities: joining clubs and organizations, spending time with friends, learning new skills. Sometimes, YOLO is justifiable procrastination. However, YOLO shouldn’t be a cavalier excuse for doing something stupid or irresponsible.
Although it’s important to make wise decisions and keep up with schoolwork (or at least accept any consequences of substituting life experiences for studying), it’s equally important to build relationships and create memories that will last longer than a knowledge of the Krebs Cycle.
Just think: never again will you be able to have the same experience at the same moment with the same group of people ever again. Every day is a new adventure. Enjoy it. Live it. Learn from it. Remember it.
Kate Winkle is a sophomore journalism major. Her columns appear every other Friday in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.