Barcelona for Two, for the Price of One: A Student's Journey

Emma Hayes Start Date: Nov 15, 2017 - End Date: Mar 14, 2018
  • Barcelona, Spain

My Travel Story

by: Emma Hayes Start Date: Nov 15, 2017 - End Date: Mar 14, 2018
My name is Emma Hayes, and I am studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain, this summer 2018. I am extremely honored to have this opportunity, and I am thrilled about the educational growth and enrichment that I will receive whilst abroad, but my reasons for going run far deeper. My yearning to experience life fuels my everyday actions. I am studying abroad for not only myself but for my sister, whose life was taken far too soon. 

When I was 16 years old, my sister Claire died. She was 18, and she lost her three-year battle with cancer. She was first diagnosed at the age of 15, I 13, with Ewings Sarcoma, which is a bone cancer. She received a full hip and femur replacement, requiring her to learn how to walk and perform basic motor skills all over again. During her journey with this cancer, I primarily lived alone. I got my hardship license at when I was 15, taking myself to school, extra curriculars, and the grocery store. I learned how to live autonomously as a freshman in high school.
My father worked full time, spending any spare time checking quickly on me and relieving my mom from the hospital. My mom was fired from her job because she simply needed too much time off, at which point our medical insurance got dropped. My father had to pay out of pocket to quickly find medical insurance to cover Claire's extensive treatments and operations. Claire was primarily located at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville, TN, so every weekend I would drive 3 hours by myself to spend precious time with my sister and my parents. 
Claire recovered from her bone cancer, radiating strength and never ceasing to smile. She was my best friend, and we spent every single moment we could together, free of hospital beds, tubes, and the fear of death. For a short while, we were infinite. We were together.
Not even a year after her successful survival of her bone cancer, Claire was diagnosed with Leukemia, a direct result of the chemotherapy used to treat the Ewings Sarcoma. It was during this remainder of Claire's life that mine was forever changed. I had to watch my sister slowly dwindle before my eyes and accept, at the mere age of 18, that she was going to join death. At the age of 16 I looked death in the eyes as it took my best friend from me. I watched as my family fell apart and our money dwindled, desperate to find any miracle that would save Claire, no matter the cost. On April 18, 2013, I said goodbye to the only person I have ever loved so truly. 
I am studying abroad for two people. I am taking my sister on the adventures that her life would not allow her to go on. I am learning and growing and flourishing as a well-cultured student so that I may fully embrace this world and every opportunity presented to me. I am greater than my tragedy, my heartbreak, and my loss. 
Unforunately, the insurmountable medical bills are still extremely prevalent. My mother is no longer eligible to work, and my father is hardly home so that he can cover expenses. We are constantly reminded of the pain we endured because we are still experiencing the weight of the payments. 
I humbly ask, if you are able, to help me make this dream a reality. Help me turn a tragic childhood into a college experience that is enriching and memorable and honorary of all those who have experienced a loss too soon. 
  • Barcelona, Spain