Final Reflection: How I Talk About My Time Abroad

Kat Peterson
January 9, 2022

I’ve never felt as short for words as I do when people back home ask me about my study abroad experience. "So, how was your semester abroad?" My mind starts racing and I’m flooded with images, sensations, and feelings, but somehow none of them seem expressable. At least not in a way that I feel gives my experience justice. I always start by saying it was a wonderful and humbling experience that I’ll never forget—which is true! For some people that’s enough, and they are happy to be spared all the details, which is sometimes a relief! However, I’ve found that my closest friends and family are interested most in hearing all about my journey abroad. It becomes a challenging balance between romanticizing the experience and focusing on the disappointments (because there will be disappointments). Ideally, I would answer *that* question somewhat like this…

“It was a wonderful and humbling experience that I’ll never forget. It was exhilarating. It was adventurous and new. It was challenging sometimes. And also heartbreaking. It made me reflect on myself and the things that I need. Studying abroad in Spain was a conscious dream, and I only broke through to reality as I was leaving. I never forgot how lucky I was to be there, but there were also days when I sought home. The friendships I made in Spain were filled with warmth and shared experience. I didn’t realize how far friendships could progress in such a short amount of time. The people I met inspired me. Among the relationships I formed, maybe the strongest was with the language. I wasn’t just learning Spanish, I was living it. I embodied the language in ways I didn’t think were possible, and it opened up my world tremendously. I saw some of the most beautiful places in the world. To me they were spiritual—not just stunning to the eye, but healing to the soul. I tried new foods! And while I didn’t love all of them, at least I can say I gave them a fair shot. School was more demanding than I expected, and the teaching style was definitely distinct from my school at home, but I learned the importance of perspective. Another truth? Even just for a little while, I was happy to get away from some of the discourses that inundated my life in the U.S. Learning about a different government, a different culture, and their different responses to things like COVID, women’s rights, LGBTQA+ rights, immigration, and religion shed a new light on those issues for me. One of the hardest parts about coming back home has been my reimmersion into such a contentious political environment, and being away for a while has given me new ideas of what’s possible. Some of the most important things I brought back with me from Granada were self-confidence, amazing friendships, a sense of global citizenship, local lingo, and a home away from home. My study abroad experience didn’t really end the day I boarded my plane home. It continues. Even now weeks after the program “ended," I find myself discovering ways in which Granada and Spain still live in me and shape the way I think about a lot of things. So, yeah, studying abroad to me is an experience of a lifetime and a lifetime experience that I’ll never forget.”

Kat Peterson

<p>Hi, I'm Kat! I'm a junior at Scripps College and come from a small town called Beaumont in California (about halfway between L.A. and Palm Springs). I am a Linguistics and Spanish, Latin American, and Caribbean Literatures and Cultures dual major. I would describe myself as a Netflix junkie and culture enthusiast. I love to have movie nights with my friends, talk to people about their ancestry, check out museums, and cook Buzzfeed Tasty recipes!</p>

2021 Fall
Home University:
Scripps College
Beaumont, CA
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