For years I’ve been told that I need to study abroad, especially as a Spanish language learner. I’ve been told that it’s an incredible experience that I can’t miss out on if I’m given the privilege to be immersed in another culture. Only now, after I’ve returned from my semester abroad, can I see just how right these people were. Not only in my classes, but in my trips and adventures I have learned so much about Spain, its history, its culture, and even myself.
In my classes, I’ve spent months studying the history of Spain from the first inhabitants to the modern age of COVID-19. In my travels, I’ve observed Spanish culture and the distinct regional differences across my host country. In all of my experiences, I’ve noticed changes in myself that I’m proud of and excited to share with my friends and family back home.
I’m more capable than I knew. The first day I got here my friend told me about the solo travel she has done, and I always thought I could never do that, even with experience and practice. But after traveling with friends, I see that I can handle myself alone and I feel empowered to travel.
Because of the time differences and conflicting schedules, it has been difficult to maintain contact with friends and family. But I’m still here, I’m still loving it, and I’m learning just how important it is to be independent. Though I know I have my family and friends to lean on, I know that being 4,000 miles away from my comfort zone was the best decision I could have made. It was disappointing to have my time abroad canceled twice, but I feel like this is the experience I was meant to have, and I feel like I appreciate this privilege so much more after I almost didn’t have it and I had to work my butt off to make it happen.
I’m stretching my abilities into something new to create these experiences. Even though I’m uncomfortable, after so long of not being able to study abroad and knowing it would be nearly impossible for me to do again, I need to pack everything I can into this one semester abroad (just like I’m going to have to pack all of the things I bought into my suitcases to bring home). I lost the experience of spending time with a host family due to COVID, and I really have to be dedicated to the experience to get anything out of it.
Most of my friends have had friends, family, and or romantic partners come to visit them. A little bit selfishly, I think I’m okay with the fact that nobody was able to come visit me this semester. It makes this truly my experience that my friends, family, and partner aren’t involved in. I’m able to experience it by myself and grow by myself to find my independence and confidence in new ways. I know that I still have their support from an ocean away but I’m able to be completely my own person. These are experiences I’ve always known I’ve wanted to have and now I don’t have to share them with my friends or family. But I will share them in pictures and memories now that I’m home.
The clichés about studying abroad about it being life changing and incredible are common for a reason: they’re true. Even when there are challenges, it’s ultimately worth it. Despite the many hours I spent filling out forms and responding to emails, it was 100% worth it to spend this semester abroad. I’m no expert, but after my time in Spain, I stand by the fact that the best way to learn about the world is to live in it, and the best way to learn about a culture is to be immersed in it.
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<p>I am a student at Gettysburg College '22 studying Political Science, Spanish, and Peace and Justice Studies. Studying abroad in the Madrid - Language and Area Studies Program Fall 2021 is my first real experience abroad and I am excited to engage with the cultural experience I will have access to exploring Spain! In my free time I enjoy baking, cooking, listening to every genre of music, hiking, and other outside activities. I'm so excited to take a break from my small historical battlefield college town and move to a big capital city in a new country with a whole different history!</p>