I went into this semester knowing—hoping—that I’d learn more about myself. I knew it would be a challenge to live with a host family that didn’t speak any English. I also knew that simply living on my own in a foreign country for four months would be an obstacle on its own. I’m from a small town in central Indiana, so learning to live in a city, a European city, would be a huge transition.
But I didn’t think about the small frustrations I would encounter on a nearly daily basis. Last week, I got my wallet stolen (if I can give you any advice—always be alert for pick-pocketers). Earlier, I ripped my metro card, and it stopped working. I had to explain my situation to the metro service completely in Spanish. Sometimes I have a story that I’m dying to tell my host mom, but I can’t explain it quite right in Spanish – many times the story loses its point. And it’s times like these when I find myself feeling defeated. I think about how much easier it would be to deal with the same situation in the United States.
Yet I always seem to find a way. After some calls home, I managed to sort out my credit card problems—and now I’m a lot more careful with my wallet. I used my Spanish-speaking skills to get a replacement metro card, although it took a little longer than it would have in English. And I’ve formed an amazing relationship with my host mom, even if some of my stories get slightly lost in translation.
These bumps in the road that everyone’s bound to face abroad have equipped me to handle more and more inevitable bumps that I will face. Learning to communicate with a metro worker completely in Spanish empowered me. I’m no longer scared to practice speaking in Spanish with anyone here in Barcelona. And sharing personal stories with my host mom has created a bond that has given me an entirely new perspective of the world—that of a 75-year-old Spanish woman who’s never stepped foot in the United States.
The point is that these challenges, of course, will happen. Maybe (hopefully!) you won’t get your wallet stolen, but not everything can go perfectly smoothly—it just can’t. And while these difficulties seem to come up slightly more frequently when you’re thousands of miles away from home, it has made me better. I’ve learned so much about myself through these challenges that I doubt I would have this young if it weren’t for the opportunity to study abroad.