Life Abroad vs. Life at Home

Headshot of Jacob Chan.
Jacob Chan
May 8, 2023
Picture of lending library at the Príncipe Pio Mall in Madrid.

I remember at the start of my study abroad program in Madrid that the one thing I wanted to be able to do by the time I finished was to be able to roll my r’s. At the end of my program, I can confidently say that I wasn’t able to learn how. Even though my pronunciation still leaves much to be desired, I feel like my life has changed since coming to Madrid. As I am heading back home soon, I wanted to take the time to reflect on how my life has changed since being abroad, my life back home in the U.S., and some major differences between the two.

I realized pretty early on in my time abroad that life would be different. One of the first things I noticed was that food is different. Back home, I have access to a kitchen and back at my home school, I am on a full-meal plan. Being in a “colegio mayor,” (pretty much the equivalent of a dorm/student residence) I am lucky enough to have a full meal plan but it is slightly different. At my home school, our meal plan is all you can eat but in my colegio mayor, there’s a (fairly) strict limit. Not to mention, the general portions of food in Spain are much smaller than they are in the U.S.

Another major difference for me between life at home and life abroad was activities and events to do outside of classes. Personally, this was a major positive. Having grown up in the suburbs, a major joke that we have is that the most fun thing to do on the weekends is going to Target. Similarly, my home university is a small school of about 1,400 students in the suburbs. Overall, there isn’t much there to do either. At IES Abroad Madrid, even though there’s approximately 90 students in the LAS Program, there are many more opportunities to meet others and more things to do. The LAS Program gives us the opportunity to go on field trips, meet local Spanish students, and tour various parts of the city of Madrid. Madrid being a city of over 3 million people and the capital of Spain, there’s quite a lot to see and do that it’s difficult to get bored.

While these things are important and noticeable, the biggest difference between life abroad and life at home (at least for Spain) has to be the people. By this, I mean everyone you interact with including the other people on your study abroad program and the locals as well. In my experience, studying abroad is an important (yet rewarding!) personal choice that attracts people who want to explore and learn about a new country and culture. While there are a lot of people at my homeschool who do share this interest in exploring, I found it much more prominent in the students on my program. In a similar way, I have found that Spanish people generally have a much more relaxed yet adventurous lifestyle as opposed to the people in the U.S. A lot of them were very spontaneous and came up with plans that I never had thought of before. 

Of course, I’m not trying to argue that one lifestyle is “better” than the other rather that there are some differences that I would have liked to know before studying abroad :)

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Headshot of Jacob Chan.

Jacob Chan

My name is Jacob and I am a current junior at Haverford College. I love all things related to learning about different cultures whether it be food, language, customs, etc. In my free time, you can typically find me playing video games, listening to music, or just spending time with friends!

2023 Spring
Home University:
Haverford College
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