What I would tell my past self

Maybe going abroad isn’t as scary as it seems

More stories from Meghan Hosely



Ever have one of those memories where you would go back if you could and tell your past self what you knew now? I had plenty of those in the first six months of this year, but the one moment I wish I could go back in time and tell myself what I knew now was the night of May 30.

I was in a hotel room at the Holiday Inn O’Hare in Chicago with my parents. At promptly 4:30 am the following morning, I was going to wake up and go to the Chicago O’Hare airport to fly to Managua, Nicaragua.

I tossed and turned for a little while until finally my mom picked up on my nonverbal cues and asked me what was wrong. Teary-eyed, I told her I was scared out of my mind to leave the country for three weeks.

It’s that moment in particular I wish I could pause and go back to. I wouldn’t even wait for my mom to give me the same advice I heard countless times. As cheesy as this may sound, I would tell myself that all the adventures I would have in the short three weeks abroad would be well worth it.

To put it simply: Nicaragua exceeded my wildest dreams.

I went there through the Center for International Education on an immersion program and took WMNS 422: Women’s Lives and Experiences in Nicaragua. At first, I wasn’t sure of what the course was about but during the 21 days there, I learned more than expected inside the classroom.

However, my greatest learning experience occurred outside of the classroom.

I should’ve practiced my Spanish

I took Spanish all throughout middle and high school, and placed into the third semester Spanish class here at UW-Eau Claire over a year ago. For some reason, I felt like my Spanish was probably good enough to not practice. At all.

I can’t tell you how many times I told myself I should’ve practiced. Specifically the time someone asked me, “Como estas?” (How are you?) and I replied, “Meghan.” Or, the handful of times my host parents would ask me a question, and I was too embarrassed to ask them to repeat it, so instead, I just shook my head and said, “Si.” (Yes).

For those of you who are heading abroad soon or are thinking about it, let me tell you something. From first hand experience, please understand basic phrases and don’t be afraid to let the words process before you blurt out something that definitely doesn’t answer the posed question.

Catcalling is a real thing
Before I go any further, I am well aware that catcalling is real in the United States. The other day, I was walking down Water Street with my friend, and we got honked at by at least three different cars (what does that even mean?).

However, that’s nothing compared to what I experienced abroad. Being a white, blonde-haired female, I obviously stuck out and attracted some unwanted attention.

Mostly, I walked past men who said something to me in Spanish that I couldn’t understand. There were also the rare occasions in which I got followed for a few blocks, or men would make kissy-noises at me. And I can’t forget about the time when multiple eight-year-old boys told me, “Screw you!” … only a little more vulgar, if you know what I mean.

But… I still had the greatest time
Hands down, I would absolutely go back to Nicaragua even if it meant reliving the frustrating moments again. I learned going abroad isn’t meant to be a comfortable experience.

There were times where I wondered what in the world I was doing in a different country, but it allowed me to grow and learn so much about myself.

It wouldn’t have been the same either without the people I traveled with. The people who, if it weren’t for this trip, I would never had met here at Eau Claire.

It was a time for many firsts; I stood by an active volcano, visited the ocean, and met people from countries like Germany and Scotland. Although I can’t remember their names or even what they look like, it was still surreal to connect with people vastly different from me.

Before going abroad, my cousin told me going on this trip was the first step to becoming a world traveler. Although I wasn’t totally sold on that statement at the time, I am now.

The tough times I experienced were trumped by the great times, and my passport will most definitely see more stamps in the future.