For someone who wants to travel the world, I am not as adventurous as I’d like to be. I admire those who don’t think twice before visiting a new place, those who are open to traveling to basically anywhere. In contrast, I have priorities. I have a selected list of countries I’d like visit during this semester; Portugal was not one of them.
The night before I took an 8-hour bus to Lisbon, I was hesitant about it, to the point that I almost fell asleep and missed the ride. Visiting Portugal meant stepping outside my comfort list of places to visit, to drift away from my priorities, which is something I’ve never been comfortable with. The free spirit in me decided to embrace the fact that I was traveling with almost 100 strangers and some friends for four days, sleeping in hostels, showering in communal bathrooms and partying until 4 am every day. I’m glad it did.
After 8 painful hours, we finally reached Lisbon. A beautiful bridge led us across the Tagus River to reach the center of the city. The next few days were followed by visits to the Torre do Belem, Jerónimos Monastery, São Jorge Castle (where we got to see one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions in full motion), Peter IV square and a few nightclubs. Afterwards, we departed to Oporto, a city north of Portugal, known for its wine production.
It was in Oporto where I finally realized what was going on in my life. I was having fun, plain fun, adventurous fun. I was trying new foods (like Francesinha and Pastel do Belém) like I never do and the idea of showering in communal bathrooms didn’t make me cringe. The thing is that being a 20-year-old journalism exchange student isn’t as glamorous as we all picture life in our 20’s. There are no first class flights, chic apartments or life-changing job opportunities. Instead, we have the chance to make the best of it all by traveling to new places to discover the beauty of the world around us, to meet new personalities that will become part of us, to embrace adventure in its purest way.
As I stood on a hill atop Oporto, with the entire city to my feet, I understood that I was meant to be there at that exact time with the people I was with. Nothing happens as a casualty. We travel to places because we are looking for something, for ourselves. I found a part of me in Portugal and carried it with me back to Madrid. Obrigada, Portugal, you will always be with me.
Pictures via Samuel’s Facebook profile
It’s often said that, if you work hard, someday you will make it. We all pursue dreams and imagine how it will feel to see them come true. Paulo Coelho said: “The possibility of achieving a dream is what makes life so interesting”. That’s how it has been for Samuel Olivares Bonilla, an aspiring journalist and senior at the University of Puerto Rico. His love for written communication and passion for helping others have earned him invaluable experiences and adventures worthy of being immortalized in books (just like he plans to someday).
Samuel’s interest in journalism started in high school when he discovered he had a desire for helping others while using creativity to achieve said purpose. It’s this affinity for human contact that still resonates with him when practicing journalism. His favorite part about being a journalist is meeting people and hearing their stories. One that he will always remember involves a homeless woman who insisted she had been hired by the FBI and had fabricated an entire novel-worthy story around this supposed connection to this governmental agency. Samuel was shocked about her coherence in fabricating such story.
Throughout his years at the UPR, Samuel has managed to stay active in many projects that have earned him recognition in and out of school. At the absence of work, he creates his own projects with which he is cautious and judgemental when choosing one. Through these involvements, Samuel has created an image that is essential for any aspiring journalist in our time. His presence in social media is key to his growth as a communicator.”They keep you active in the search for more information and help you in the capacitation and development of a journalistic critical eye”, he says.
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and raised between Florida and Yauco, Samuel describes himself as a city boy, especially a New Yorker. He describes his writing as “descriptive with a narration full of color”. As he continues his career, he plans to marvel at human interest journalism. His work has been published in The New York Times, Metro Puerto Rico, Revista Ego, among many other respectable publications. During his time at the NYT, Samuel understood that “anyone can make it”.
Currently, Samuel is planning to attend grad school and pursue his career as a journalist with a focus on human interest. He plans to write two books in the future: the biography of Yauco’s current mayor and his mother’s biography. Throughout his life, he has defined God, his mother and the desire of achieving his goals as his three main sources of inspiration. To future generations of journalists, he would recommend to “think thoroughly the decision to work in journalism” and that “no matter where you come from, you can make it”.
As told to That’s so French by Samuel Nemir Olivares Bonilla on September 13, 2013.
Disclaimer, the girl you see above is not me. Well, she is me, but I don’t think she’s the usual me. See, yesterday morning, I got dressed for school in an attempt to be comfortable and able to walk around campus without wardrobe problems, as usual. Then, I looked in the mirror and couldn’t figure out who the f&*^ that girl was. She was wearing denim paired with a t-shirt and a shirt resembling pajamas. Who the hell is that?
At some point I thought it was Cara Delevingne, but my eyebrows are not perfect and I’m not a model. I had put on a new persona without even noticing. That’s the thing about fashion; it can turn you into someone else. I certainly enjoyed being the girl in denim cut-offs yesterday (which by the way I had never worn to school before). Wonder who I’ll turn into next.
There are many ways one can escape reality. Denial has always been my favorite. But last May, when I was passing through one of those “WTF is happening?” moments, I decided to dye my hair. It went from a mild black to an indescribable brown (some call it chocolate, others say it was close to orange, yuck!). I had never experienced something so life-changing that would, literally, transform me into someone else. Don’t believe me? Read for yourselves.
The first night I went out as a single girl with brown hair, my girlfriends took me to Brava Club. Normally, I wouldn’t have been so keen to spending hours drinking, dancing and talking to strangers, but that night, I wasn’t being myself. And it was good. I’m sure it was the alcohol acting out, but the following morning, I woke up ready to explore my new identity.
Needless to say, the rest of summer was no different than that night. I felt happier, spontaneous and daring, instead of my normal control freak nature. The brown tones of my hair received more compliments than I had in years and my bucket list suddenly needed new additions due to my YOLO attitude. I was the female version of Chuck Bass at the beginning of Season 5; I said “yes” to everything (see: Gossip Girl).
In response, one boy managed to make the compliments and risk-taking mantra worth it. I met him while working at a summer camp, and while it took only a first sight to generate my interest, weeks went on before I actually talked to him. At one point, I said “Fu*& it! What do I have to lose?” So, me and my brown hair did something I wouldn’t do in my normal state of being: I walked over to break the ice.
A few weeks later, while on our first date, my now boyfriend complimented my hair, to which I responded: “You know this is not my real hair right?” The fact that he thought it was made me realize that the girl he had met was not the girl I was, but maybe she was the girl I needed to become. That girl was someone I am proud to have been at some point: funny, courageous, confident and not afraid to make a fool of herself.
That’s the thing about personalities: they can evolve. We are the lessons we learn, the music we listen to, the texts we read and, in my case, the colors you dye your hair. I figured it was time to be the girl I needed to become: a mixture of my old self and the brown-haired alter ego. I must say, I’m glad I met her. After all, she got me a wonderful boy. Now, it’s a two for one special. I’m back to black, bit*&%s!