- Posted March 18, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama
As a US Boren Scholar in Brazil, the last thing on my mind was falling in love amidst advocating for our national security interests. I went abroad to expand my horizons, learn a new language, and travel to sites I had only seen in pictures. I went to learn that I could do anything on my own and I went because I never thought I would have the chance again.
When and where I least expected it, the woman of my dreams, Isabel, came into my life. Just when I began to think that the world was mine, and mine alone, I met the person I cannot live without. It was her smile that first caught my attention and the way her sweet voice gave a simple hello. Our relationship started, unquestionably, with joint hesitance. She knew as well as I that my time abroad was only temporary. Our understanding of what it would take to be together forever was, quite frankly, elementary. We were reticent to initially acquainting even, because we sensed the pain we might have to endure to make that friendship—much less love—become everlasting. Yet for every instance when it would have been all too easy to quit, something kept keeping us together.
Despite our many cultural differences, we relied on our understanding of emotional intelligence as evidence that mutual respect and kind feeling surpass any geographic, linguistic, or cultural border that may have existed between us. Slowly, we learned to embrace our differences and celebrate the uncommon love we had developed. We learned to laugh at grammatical mistakes that made a serious conversation turn hysterical in the matter of a word. We learned to question the way we see the world through the eyes of one another. We learned to fight for one another—to defend our love when others questioned it and to revel in moments of unfathomed happiness.
We crossed many roads that I am sure we both thought were initially un-passable. We spent sleepless nights dreading the challenges of saying goodbye, learning to trust each other when it was easier to blame, learning to listen when we both wanted to talk, and learning to forgive when we knew such mistakes were inevitable. We spent countless hours convincing our family members that our love was lasting. We spent days upon end considering the implications of every educational or career move we could possibly make that could help us remain together. Regardless of every plan we made, we knew that eventually we would have to say goodbye and trust that, if real, our love would find a way to keep us as one.
In many ways, our relationship is a continual gift of the lessons we hope that our American students abroad will come away with upon their return—respect for others, commitment to trust, understanding of differences, and unbreakable alliance. Isabel and I have persevered through the many challenges of a long-distance international relationship—speaking multiple languages, abiding by immigration laws, convincing family of honest intentions, and understanding drastically different cultures. Being apart has been one of the biggest challenges we will ever face, but we both know that the commitment we are making to one another will make us stronger than we could ever have imagined.
Isabel and I will soon be engaged and reunited in Chicago where I work full-time at PricewaterhouseCoopers as a tax accountant and where she will study law at Northwestern University. Studying abroad has changed our lives forever—from the languages we speak to the people we call family. Our commitment to one another is not only a rewarding personal journey, but also the result of the purest form of diplomacy between citizens of different nations. Not only did my study abroad experience lead me to my future wife, it led me to people that I call family, to a second culture, a second home. In fact, our love led me past “studying” abroad, but rather “living” abroad. It made me a little more Brazilian and her a little more American. It bonded us into an unbreakable union of happiness, laughter, and love. It expanded my horizon, matured me in a way I never thought I could mature. It led me to new languages and to the far off places I had only seen in pictures. But, it taught me the lesson I needed most—that I can’t do everything alone—and even if I could, what of value in life would I have without my smart, beautiful, and loving Isabel?