Study Abroad student Eli Gauden from Norway tells us her story as to why she decided to stay another semester in Valencia, Spain instead of going back to Boston for the new semester.
I needed a change. I was stuck. After three years in Boston I had gotten too comfortable, I didn’t challenge myself the way I used to do, and I started caring less about what really matters to me. It was a hard decision to leave Boston and the community I had created there, but deep inside I knew this was the only right thing to do at the time being.
When we first arrived in Valencia, we were all told to remember WHY we decided to come. “You all came for different reasons”, they said. “Breed that and use it as your guide throughout the semester”.
Many of my peers use their Study Abroad semester as an opportunity to visit as many countries as they possibly can, and expand their cultural horizons. I envy that for them, Berklee’s Valencia Campus becomes a key that gives them access to other parts of the world. However, to me, my economic situation made the choice easy for me; My focus would be to rather get to know Valencia in and out, work hard at school, and build relationships. As much as I enjoy traveling and seeing new places, I find that there’s something special about getting to know ONE place really well, and making it your home!
The feeling I had in Boston, that I really needed a change, was definitely correct. The change of location and environment has made a great positive impact on me. From day one, I’ve found myself more motivated, excited, and again challenged. New climate, new people, new start… it sounds cliché, but it’s true, sometimes a change is just what it takes. One of the great advantages of the Valencia Campus (from my opinion) is the size of the Campus. Being only about 200 students makes the community small and close. You know almost all faces, the teachers know your face and name, and it’s more natural to interact with others. You feel recognized. The school itself is placed in a very bright and pretty location, something that helps bring out inspiration and creativity in us. I won’t pretend that I haven’t had bad days, that I’m not constantly tired (as most of us are), and that being an artist is suddenly easy-peasy… But I do find the “downs” not as deep, and the “ups” more frequently here in Valencia.
Now is the time of the semester to decide what comes next, and that brings me back to what I mentioned about making a place your home. I have finally decided to also do my very last semester of Berklee here in Valencia. The reason is simply to really grasp the culture, to shape my friendships, and to feel like I actually lived here, not just stayed here for a bit.
Out of a lifetime, one semester of 4 months is just is a split second. It gives you time to experience, learn some language, and get somehow comfortable. It gives you a steep learning curve and high excitement level. However, as great as it is, the departure will surprise you and you’ll go back feeling something like “what just happened..?”
Staying for 8 months, however, gives you the opportunity to not just experience the new place, but make it a part of you. Sure, the fresh orange juice from the market will become less exciting, the kissing twice when you greet will become normal, what once was exciting will become everyday life… However, this also gives you the opportunity to spend your attention and energy elsewhere; on digging deeper, doing what you came for, develop friendships further, build on your foundations… and make the place your home.
It was not an easy decision to choose not to go back to Boston and all it has to offer when it comes to classes, events, performance opportunities, collaborations, and so on… Yes, I do feel like I’m giving up something important. But I also believe that for me, not just as a musician, but as a person, it’s more important to really be where I am, and breed that!
I’m excited to come back here after Christmas and hopefully end my journey in Berklee strong and with a feeling of achievement and satisfaction.
Words by Eli Gauden