As someone who’s just graduated from college, I’ve started looking back on the last four years. There’s a lot that I learned, but it took many ups and downs to get to that point. There are gains I made that would never would have materialized had I not taken the biggest risk of all.
After my sophomore year of college, I studied abroad in Spain for two months. It was a part of the requirements to get my degree in Spanish, but I was still so hesitant. It meant living with a Spanish family, speaking the language every day, and not seeing my boyfriend, friends and family for two months. Plus, with all of the terrorism that had been (and still is) in the news, I knew I’d have to be more careful than usual.
Nevertheless, I chose a program, pushed myself forward and was accepted. Once I put down a deposit for the program, it was set. I was going. I didn’t give myself that chance to doubt my decision, because I knew this was something I’d never regret doing. A number of people told me I should study abroad in college, that it would be a liberating and beneficial experience. I knew that if that many people were saying the same thing to me, they couldn’t all be wrong.
This wouldn’t be an honest article if I didn’t admit that I was terrified, nervous and anxious once I arrived. My nerves got the best of me. I missed home and hated being in this place where I’d be living for the next two months. Life was so different here. I didn’t want to become a part of it. Here I was in a new country, living with a lady who spoke no English and knew nothing of privacy in the mornings when I was still sleeping.
Fast forward a month. Those feelings still lingered sometimes, but were quickly fading. The thing that changed it all was deciding to let this experience change me, instead of fighting it. I challenged myself every day to learn what I could about the culture and language, and strike up conversations with my host mother, teachers and random people in the city. I went out of my comfort zone and took long walks around the city, alone. Dangerous? Possibly. Beneficial? Immensely. I learned how to order food, buy a bus ticket, plan excursions with friends, find my way around a city without a map, and so much more.
I’d never say it was easy, because that would be far from the truth. Living in another country was the hardest thing I ever did, but that’s because I put challenges in front of myself that I needed to solve. I made myself learn and grow, every day.
I knew I had two choices that summer: hide away from the experience or embrace something entirely new. I did the latter, and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s incredible what you can learn from a new culture if you let yourself. I grew to appreciate different ways of life, and learned that I could get myself through literally any problem in life. A valuable skill. Most importantly, though, I learned that it’s so important to step out of your comfort zone and do something foreign to you. Push yourself, and you’ll never be disappointed.
What is your favorite lesson learned from studying abroad? Comment below!