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How a Year in Spain Became a Year in Latin America

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My dream was to work in Spain—but life had other plans for me.

I threw the last of my clothes into my suitcase, sat on it to squeeze it shut and that was it—the start of my year abroad in Latin America volunteering as an English teacher.

That wasn't the originally the plan. Since an early age, I've dreamed of living in Spain and speaking Spanish. 

In 2019, when an offer landed in my inbox to study Spanish and linguistics at a university in the UK, it felt like a dream come true. I'd be able to pursue my passion, and the program even included the opportunity to travel as part of my undergraduate studies. Then, two years later, I secured a 10-month teaching placement in Spain. 

However, I soon learnt that nothing goes to plan. Unfortunately, things became overly complicated with the timings and the documentation I needed for Spain, especially after Brexit.

My heart told me that I'd come too far to throw it all away.

With only two months until I was meant to depart for a year, I wanted to give up. It was a battle between my head and my heart: My head told me to give up, as it was the easiest and most sensible choice. But my heart told me that I'd come too far to throw it all away. My mum has always told me "follow your heart," and so that’s what I did. I knew I had to push myself outside of my comfort zone. 

For several nights, I stayed awake until the early hours of the morning searching for the perfect placement abroad. My university offered me a program for four months in Argentina, but to pass the year, I needed at least seven months. I decided to pursue the placement in Argentina, eventually finding another volunteer placement in Costa Rica that was an additional three months.

Even though I was filled with a sense of dread as I emptied my savings account, there was also a sense of resolution. Finally, after months of stress, tears and worries, I had a plan.  Everything was falling into place. 

Give that my initial plan was to head to Spain, I couldn't quite believe that I was travelling so far away from home. When I started out at university, it never even crossed my mind that I would be living across the Atlantic Ocean, over a 10-hour flight away from home. However, they say that pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones and facing the unknown is what makes us realize just how much we really can achieve.

So, in August 2022, I said goodbyes to my home in the UK and my flight departed from Manchester airport. Destination: Costa Rica.

With tears in my eye, I still wasn't sure if it's what I really want to do. Could I live so far away from home for so long in a complete new country?

Little did I know then, that the answer would be "yes." I was about to embark on a year that would completely change my life. 


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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Alisha Jayne

Alisha Jayne is a British university student who has volunteered in Costa Rica and Argentina. She has combined her love for Spanish and teaching on this journey through Latin America. Through the highs and lows, Alisha was inspired to start travel writing to motivate others and give a true perspective.

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