A year ago now I faced the famous university ranking every FLTA suffers before getting chosen by the university that will host them. After hours of research, phone calls and more research, I sent my final decision trusting my good fortune would not let me down. A couple of weeks later, I received an email from the so far unknown Gardner-Webb University congratulating me for having been chosen to work there. How come? -I thought, that university is not even in my ranking list! Apparently, there had been some mistake in the ranking process and I was to go there. Oh well, let’s see what North Carolina and a tiny dry town have to offer!
Let me introduce you to Boiling Springs. As you enter the town, the first thing that strikes you is the solitude in which that lonely traffic light lives. It’s just him (or her) watching over the traffic with an endless tweet tweet that some people assure to hear from the other side of town. If you come on a Wednesday, like I did, you will find the only coffee shop of town packed with people enjoying the best local band whose musicians are professors from the university and the librarian. You may come up on stage if you wish! It is a weekly magic reunion of faculty, locals and students who will quickly take you under their wing and you will become a member of a small charming community. Such a warm welcome will grow warmer as you join the many fun activities organized on and off campus: canoeing, field trips, pumpkin painting, ice-skating, American football games, gospel choir, etc. You will quickly make new friends who will happily show you more about their southern culture (food always involved); you will hike the beautiful North Carolina mountains, enjoy live southern music and have an overdose of s’mores over a bonfire.
In case you feel the urge to change scenery at some point, there will be people asking you to ask them to give you a ride anywhere, and so you will get to travel around the state, and the country, and there won’t be a day that the so-called “southern hospitality” does not surprise you; South Carolina, Tennessee, DC, Louisiana or California hosts will make you feel home while you discover all those places you were dreaming about just a while ago. But even though you are having a great time, soon you will start feeling homesick. Not about Spain, but about your Baptist town and its lay-back people, and so you will go back after a long weekend and only when the tweet tweet salutes you, will you realize that this tiny town of yours is the right place to be.
And even though not everything will be perfect, you will remember everyday your supervisor’s words at your arrival the very first day: “This experience will be what you make of it. You decide if it will be an awesome experience or a bad one”.
Still today, I am surprised how well everything turned out thank to my wonderful adventure colleagues, an encouraging supervisor, friends, students and professors. That little town and its small community have given me much more than I expected; I’ve learned from them, I have shared with them and they have shaped a new perspective of the USA and its people. As some locals say, “you come here bringing another part of the world with you, we show you what we have and then, we exchange”.
Ana de Barbaño Lucas
2014/2015 FLTA at Gardner-Webb University