Clara was the instructor at the first yoga class I attended when I moved to San Antonio, Texas. She was full of energy greeting me with a smile and a hug at a 9am Saturday morning class. Since then we have spent time off the yoga mat and I have grown so fond of the authenticity that is Clara. Seriously, this girl keeps it way real.
It has been about a year since I first met her and only a few months ago that we were riding bikes when we had a conversation about what a year abroad in Thailand meant for me. We talked about the ups and downs that come with being so far out of your comfort zone and how those unknown experiences can shape your perspectives. Perspectives that you then carry with yourself for a lifetime.
This week we sat down to talk with Clara over coffee about her recent decision to move to Spain. Afterwards we migrated to her studio apartment for avocados and a further look into her life (and all the things she was going to be leaving behind!) here in San Antonio, Texas before making her way to Spain in only a couple weeks.
Clara Stiefel found herself with a year of limitless possibility while awaiting the results of her med school applications.
After consulting friends on what had been the most impactful moments of their lives, Clara eventually settled on traveling abroad to Spain to teach English as a second language for a gap year. Though challenges come with such a lofty change, Clara explains "I never use the word realistically because if you ever tie yourself to time or money you will never go." She says that too many people wait for the "right moment," but just end up waiting and never "doing".
With a background in both medical research (specifically traumatic brain injury in veterans at UTHSCSA) and teaching yoga, Clara is holistically dedicated to wellness. Before coming to San Antonio, Clara held the title of "one of the only yoga teachers in the small town" of Enid, Oklahoma where she was living. She was unsure of her abilities to guide yogis in a larger city until Mobile Om gave Clara the confidence she needed to see herself as a qualified yoga teacher. Clara adds that the multiple locations of Mobile Om's classes fit her same ideals of making yoga accessible for everyone. But her profession will take a dramatically different path in just a few short weeks.
Teaching in Spain wasn't the only thing Clara considered. The possibility-rich year of waiting for word for med school made the sky feel like the limit.
"I brainstormed what I could do. Move to Alaska and work at Denali National Park or teach yoga in Costa Rica at this sustainable farm I've been to and loved."
Clara decided she would choose a Spanish-speaking country as her destination since being Espanol fluent is beneficial for working and connecting with people in the hospital. Upon realizing she'd never been to Europe, Spain became her obvious choice.
"Then I got in to the teaching program and I asked myself again if I really wanted to do this." Reevaluating the situation, Clara felt terrified.
While reflecting on her departure date just couple weeks away, Clara says she wants to stay focused on her life here until it is actually time to go. But there is a fine line between pretending like nothing is changing and not focusing too much on the future.
"It has been my intention to be very present and make connections with people - which is really hard because it also makes me really sad to leave."
Speaking sentimentally about "trying to do everything for the last time," Clara uses the the analogy of a house-guest to explain why she knows she knows the timing is right.
She explained that the hard goodbye is a sign you're in a good place. You don't want to have a guest so long that you're annoyed they keep leaving dishes in the sink or towels on the floor. You want to be hugging them when they leave, begging they come back to visit again soon.
When asked what makes her nervous, the first thing that came to mind was a missed piece of paperwork, having her visa stolen or a missing vital step of the process. But there are also the simpler fears. Language barrier, missing the comforts of home as well as missing out on the things going on with her friends and family for the next year.
Still, in turn she is so excited to teach. "I settled on teaching because I love teaching. I love high schoolers, they are so sassy."
And there's the romance of España as well. "It's always been a dream to live in a big European city, and I know it won't always be like the movies but I know it is going to challenge me to grow in ways I can't imagine."
Plus Clara is ready to eat, and learn the culture of her new home, mentioning Europe's beloved fùtbol.
"Above all I know I will learn lot of new skills, and I'm hoping to gain a new perspective on the world, people and myself. An organic learning experience." Laughing she adds, "But I'm also hoping to just have fun. We are always so goal driven these days to be on to the next thing so I really just want to enjoy myself."
Looking past the year in Spain, Clara says when she returns med school will start essentially as soon as she gets back to the States. Clara loved working with vets and is passionate about women's health so she is happy to end up almost anywhere so long as she can pursue those fields. But acknowledging the possibility all falling according to plan Clara cheerfully adds, "If I don't get in maybe I will stay in Spain another year!"