What I didn't know

Benjamin Streeter
January 1, 2016

What did you wish you knew before you went to Spain? That’s what people have asked me on several occasions. And that question is more complicated than it seems. If you’ve ever been asked do you wish you’d chosen to go to school somewhere else, maybe you’ll understand. The true answer to that question usually revolves around “At the time I made the right decision, but who I am now wouldn’t make that same decision.” That’s how it is with going abroad. After the experience, I know a whole lot more than I did coming in. But if I’d known it all at the beginning, it wouldn’t have been the experience that it was.

It’s really all about (prepare yourself for clichéd theme) growth. Going from not knowing, to knowing. Never having done, to doing. Strangers to acquaintances. Acquaintances to friends. Barely any Spanish to more than barely any Spanish. And I guess I was somewhat unprepared for that. I didn’t realize or expect how much being in Spain for the fall semester and 2 months before would bring about change. And make no mistake, this change comes back home with you, which is the best thing about it. However, even knowing about the inevitability changing while doing something like study abroad doesn’t let you know how you’re going to change. That’s the really fun part.

Maybe this will seem paradoxical after talking about change, but there’s also a lot that doesn’t change. If you are shy or outgoing, you’ll likely stay shy or outgoing. If you’re not sure what you want to do in life, you’ll probably still be pretty unsure. If you have friend or family problems back home, you’ll likely still have them. You fundamentally don’t change, but you are leveled up, evolved, augmented, whatever. And that helps you address those things that need addressing upon returning to the states or wherever it is you call home.

Now another unexpected aspect of the program was the connection I made to numerous people. Whether IES Abroad staff, students, random people, or friends made during the process, a lot of these people I’ll never forget. And when you’re lucky enough that a pair of them happen to go to your school, it’s even better. I feel like 3 sentences doesn’t convey how important this part was, so I added this 4th sentence to underscore it.

Now obviously this is all based on my experience. I take no legal responsibility for other’s experiences abroad, and any legal action taken against me will be groundless. Being abroad like this isn’t something quantifiable, and because of that you can never really be prepared for it. Preparation in one area will just open up opportunities in another. So instead of wondering if you’re prepared or if you can handle it, just going out, do it, and ask yourself afterwards. The answer will certainly be yes.

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2015 Fall
Home University:
Vanderbilt University
Engineering - General
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