The Sum of Its Parts: Happiness Abroad

Headshot of Jacob Chan.
Jacob Chan
April 28, 2023
Picture of Street View of park with tall tress and buildings on the side.

As I sit here on the train to Barcelona thinking about how this is one of my last trips while abroad, I can’t help but feel sentimental. Studying abroad was something I knew I’ve always wanted to do and knowing that it will be over in 2 weeks makes me sad. I’ve made amazing friends, discovered hidden gems of the city, gotten used to Spanish eating habits, laughed, cried, and everything in between. I feel that I’ve changed since coming here and I mean that in the best way possible. I’ve become more independent, learned more about my needs and wants, and, most importantly, shown myself that it was all worth it in the end. 

Something that I’ve come to appreciate about the study abroad experience and about life in general is the small things: the sum of its parts. Studying abroad isn’t always about the flashy Instagram posts or going out every night as I’ve come to understand. Sometimes just sitting in a cafe with a friend or discovering a fun non-touristy area of the city can be equally if not more rewarding. 

Of course, that’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with taking pictures for Instagram or enjoying the more “animated” parts of the abroad experience. I myself have posted quite often to my Instagram story documenting a lot of where I go and what I do. After all, (most of us) come with the expectation that we will be going back so make sure to get the most out of your time according to how you want to spend it!

With that being said, I’ve really come to appreciate the aspects of study abroad that aren’t as documented. When I try to think of what I will miss most of all, I can’t think of anything. Rather, I think of everything. I’ll miss that walk through the park to get back to my housing. The chain of comfort-food restaurants that’s a 10-minute walk from my dorm. I’ll even miss the cafeteria food. Ok… maybe not as much on that last one but I’ve come to appreciate the sense of routine that I’ve established in these past few months and how all of these small details have contributed to my experience.  

If you’re currently studying abroad or planning on studying abroad sometime in the future, my biggest piece of advice is to appreciate the small things. I remember nervously scrolling through my college’s study abroad Instagram page and looking on in awe at everyone’s pictures and mention of traveling every weekend with friends they had made that week. In retrospect, that may not have helped as much as I thought it would. If I could go back in time and tell myself what I know now, I would say find your joy and don’t let anyone take that away from you. As long as it’s legal and not harmful to yourself and others, you should do whatever makes you happy!

I feel like in a lot of my blog posts, I reiterate that it’s important to find your own happiness. I only say this because of how true it is! I spent quite a bit of time at the beginning being scared of being judged which kept me from enjoying a lot of things about the abroad experience. Remember that study abroad is made up of so many different parts that others may not understand. That’s ok. It’s your happiness not theirs. Thinking of this time as the sum of its parts is a good first step to truly enjoying this special time in your life  :)

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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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