Ashley Smallwood is an FIU Honors College student. She is currently pursuing a Master of Architecture degree and is interested in the restoration of historical structures. Due to her early exposure to the ocean and greenery of Fort Myers, Florida, she strives to learn about the merging between human structures and the earth’s natural elements.
Encounter as Text
by Ashley Smallwood
January 27, 2023
Even though we were born seven years apart, my sister and I have always been best friends. I don’t remember a time before I went to college when we never not spoke for more than a couple days – even if it was just a short phone call. Now, however, my sister is deployed in Japan for the second time and communication gets hard when you have a fourteen-hour time difference. Although, I miss her all the time, I’m grateful that my sister has experienced many once-in-a- lifetime opportunities while she has been abroad. Now it gets to be my turn to experience the world for myself.
I have no doubt that my parents have gotten over listening to me lamenting about not experiencing anything outside of the US. Junior year of high school was when I was going to experience many different countries within Europe, but Covid popped up as an obstacle for me then. I think that disappointment was when I really looked outside of Florida and saw the experiences I was missing, even inside of the country.
The picture above was taken by me when my family visited Tennessee during the summer. I think this picture helped me realize that being in nature was something I appreciated tremendously. Since joining my roommate Liz in signing up for the España trip, I have looked back and become grateful that I didn’t go on the trip to Europe during high school because I don’t think I would have appreciated it as it should be appreciated. I have grown as person with much more meaningful interest than I had back then – even if it was only two years ago.
I developed a hobby that I never thought I could develop in Florida: rock climbing. During the summer before I started college, a rock-climbing gym opened up in my city. I had very little experience from when I went with my cousins in Virginia. I decided to sign up to work there anyway. This decision turned out to be a pivotal moment for me and my interests in traveling. I ended up meeting really amazing people and joining an awesome community of nature-loving adventurers. I met someone through rock climbing who lived in Switzerland during high school, and he shares with me his experiences of his time in Europe which really pushed me to follow through with this España trip. So far, my excitement has only grown and I am looking forward to seeing the architecture of the religious sanctuaries and ultimately learning more about the history of Spain itself.
Since I have never been out of the country – at least old enough that I could remember anything – I am a tad bit nervous about being away from my family, especially because I won’t be near them. In honesty, I know it’ll pass and be out of my mind once I am actually there. My mother is definitely a worrier, which I definitely understand. However, I believe this trip will help me become more confident in my own decisions while I am abroad and help me form bonds with people I did not even know before.