Author Allyson McCullough

… they’re taking me to Marrakesh’*

Thursday, October 4, 2018

By Allyson McCullough / UMES Class of 2020

A recent overseas adventure demonstrated to me, as Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. once wrote, that “A mind stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimension.” 

Traveling forces you to trust the unknown, and let go of the familiar.  At first, you feel off balance, but it’s not until we are vulnerable do we find ourselves and truly grow.

The purpose of life is to live it – to taste … experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences. 

This is exactly what I did this past summer through my trip to Spain.  I decided to get out of my usual comfortable routine and hopped on a plane by myself to a new world – and I can emphatically say it was the best decision I have ever made. 

Through the help of a grant from the Henson Honors College Enhancement Fund, I spent 35 days in Spain living with a host mother and taking Spanish classes to expand my language skills (and earned six credits toward my UMES degree). 

It afforded me the opportunity to take side trips to other foreign terrains, which landed me in (the north African nation of) Morocco, touring the Sahara Desert on camel back – and relaxing at the famous thermal baths in Budapest, Hungary. 

I saw incredible landscapes, and made meaningful, lasting relationships.  What I saw and experienced was indescribably fantastic in every way.  Not only did my Spanish speaking skills improve, but I gained independence and confidence in myself. 

This trip has helped my mind expand and opened my eyes to major cultural differences I didn’t know existed.

The author crossing the Sahara

My growing intercultural awareness has allowed me to recognize and respect the diversity and complexity of people, cultures, and ideologies.  The experiences I took away during this short time far surpassed just intellectual learning, and has transformed me into a better, more aware version of myself. 

I encourage everyone to consider studying abroad.  It will open your mind to the beautiful differences in this world. 

Allyson R. McCullough, a junior from Crisfield, is a member of the Richard A. Henson Honors Program majoring in exercise science

(*) Headline inspired by lyrics from “Marrakesh Express” written by Graham Nash.

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