The People You’ll Meet Studying Abroad
When you tell people that you studied abroad, you will probably be asked what the best part about your experience was. Was it the food? The beach? Being totally free to explore a totally new world?
I have studied in Spain twice. After my first trip – four years ago – I am not sure how I would have answered that question. (Actually, that’s a lie. I probably would have said the best part was the gelato). From my two experiences in Spain I have crossed so many things off of my bucket list. I have been to a Real Madrid game, seen a bullfight, visited the picturesque Spanish countryside, befriended locals, and improved my Spanish tremendously. However, when I think back on what made studying abroad amazing, the first thing I think about is the people whom I have met.
So, without further ado, here are the people you’ll meet studying abroad.
The Host Family
This is probably the most important relationship you will develop during your time abroad. Your host family is your go-to for all needs and questions. My biggest piece of advice? Don’t be shy! Host families do what they do for a reason. They want to share their culture with you and make sure you have a great time. If you get close enough with them they might even sneak you extra dessert when your roommate isn’t looking.
The People in Your Program
These are the people that you will spend the most time with. You might not know anyone else at first, but it’s crazy how quickly you can connect with other people when you’re all 4,000 miles from home. You’re all in the same boat, and odds are that these people will be involved in just about all of the memories you make while abroad. Honestly I would have never expected it before my trip, but I still stay in touch with some of the people that I met from my program four years ago!
I would use the term “teacher” loosely here. It would be better to say that the teachers are more like friends who happen to be way more knowledgeable than you. In my experience, the teachers I’ve had have always been willing to help show students around the city and explore, both during class and outside of school hours. Whether that means a scavenger hunt or going out as a class for tapas, the classroom extends well beyond the walls of the school.
I think when I really knew that I could get by in Spain was when I worked up the courage to get to know a local here and there. It was hard at first, especially being in the south of Spain where the accent can be thick and hard to understand. Eventually, though, I was able to form some really cool bonds with every-day Spaniards. The one that jumps to mind first is Gabriel, my barber. His shop was right across the street from my house in Sevilla. Sometimes it was just a wave as I walked by, other times a quick conversation, but I got to know Gabriel little by little. The day before I left Sevilla I went to say “goodbye” to him and thanked him for the haircuts (10/10 would recommend). “It’s not ‘goodbye,’ it’s ‘until next time,’” he said.
When I think back on it, that quote really is a nice way to look back on studying abroad. Your experiences abroad and the people you meet – they don’t just stay on the other side of the ocean. They’ll stick with you even after you return home.