Three Visits, Eight Months, A Million Memories
Since August of 2014, I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel to Spain three times and spend roughly 8 months of the past two years here; thanks Mom and Dad. Throughout my time here I have gained an immeasurable amount of knowledge about the language, culture, myself, and the world in general, been to numerous countries, met amazing people, made great friends from all over the world, and have lived a life that I would have never dreamed possible. Centro MundoLengua has been there for me ever since they picked me up from the train station in Sevilla when I came to study abroad and they have continued to do so by allowing me to spend my last summer interning with them in Cadiz and this summer interning with them in Sevilla. I am down to my final week before I return back to the United States where I will start my post-graduate life and I am left with one of the weirdest feelings that I have ever felt, because this could either be the last time that I get to live in Europe and possibly even visit for a while, or this place could become my new home. Bearing this thought in mind, I figured I would share some of what I have learned throughout my travels, because what else are blogs for.
I know that studying abroad is difficult and expensive, but everyone should strive to be able to do it. What you get out of it will be more than worth the monetary cost. If possible, do an entire semester or even an entire year- I wish I could have stayed for an entire year- however, if a summer program is your only option, then take it. Be that as it may, you will only have an unforgettable, life-changing experience if you truly put yourself into actually living abroad, instead of solely studying abroad. Go somewhere you already know the language, or somewhere where you have a genuine interest in learning it, live with a host family and get close to them, actually try in class and get involved in as many activities as you can especially if they involve other foreign students or people who are from the country, and just try in general. I also know the typical study abroad “fears” of missing out, especially if you choose to go abroad for an entire semester, but the truth is that these fears are not valid. Nothing really changes while you´re gone, the only thing that actually changes is you.
On that note, the part about going abroad that is truthfully the most difficult is coming back. If you leave for any substantial amount of time, you will hopefully come back a little different, which should be the end goal. The problem is that everyone back home won´t understand that change. The questions that you get asked won´t be about the adventures you had, the places you´ve been, or the things you learned, they will be more general, as if you had left for a weekend, and then normal life will continue to go on while your experience slowly fades into memory. While this does sound somber, it does lead to two good things: the first is that anyone who has studied abroad should be that outlet for others, because not only will you be there for the other person who has just come back, but it will also help you recount your own experience; the second is that it leaves you hungry, hungry to return to the place that gave you continual growth and to continue your adventures. This hunger is very important, because it will lead to look for more out of life and to not settle.
Lastly, the most important thing that comes from studying abroad is the relationships that you form. Making friends with people from other cultures is one of the best things that you can do for yourself. It will help you gain a new perspective on the world, especially when you see and understand that even though there are cultural differences that separate everyone, people are people no matter where you go. Plus, going to a new city or country is even better when you know someone there to show you around and maybe even give you a couch to sleep on.
To be honest, I don´t know if I´m ready to leave or if I even want to. Having your heart split across the Atlantic Ocean is tough and to be honest the only thing that makes me want to go back is the people. If I could have everyone here with me I´d never leave.