A lot has happened between my first post before I left and now, when I’m back in Bloomington. I’m back to the normal routine and classes. No more random side trips to other countries (states perhaps) and I don’t get to hear Spanish on a daily basis. Both of these I will miss dearly, but it’s still great to be Back Hoome Again in Indianaaaaa (sorry, I can’t do it justice). So, a quick recap since I know it’s been a while since my last post.
Three months ago, I excitedly left for Spain with two suitcases, a book bag, and no idea what I was getting into. During that time, I got to experience Andalucian culture and the language Andalucian (Andalucian dialect of Spanish), visited five countries (Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal, and France), met a number of great friends, and overall had the experience of my life; but there were the downs as well. I didn’t have the best housing situation that I had hoped for; I lost my laptop due to a waitress spilling coffee on it and frying my Mac to a nice unusable state; and had a stint of homesickness.
Through all of that, I’ve decided to make my pitch to you for why you should study abroad. Later, in another post, I’ll attempt to persuade you to study in Sevilla, Spain, or at least make a trip to the beautiful city I called home in another post.
Here we go. My ten reasons for studying abroad go as followed, in order:
Do you want a challenge? Study abroad and you’ll get one.
Before I left, I would guarantee you that this would not have been on the list at all. Sure, I would’ve addressed the fact that it will be a challenge, but after coming back from my challenge, I without a doubt think this is the biggest reason to study abroad.
Now, what do I mean by challenge? Try going to a country where you don’t know the language and live there for a while. Or how about going to a country where you do know the language? Regardless, you will run into a challenge. For me, one of my biggest challenges was trying to “survive” in a small, French town where no one spoke English or Spanish. Another challenge was just conversing in “Spanish”, or Andalucian (if you know Spanish or want to understand why I distinguish, search for Andalucian on YouTube) on a daily basis. It was a challenge to adapt to a different culture. It was a challenge to take classes in all Spanish. There was no dozing off or spacing out otherwise I didn’t have a clue what was going on.
When I started to draw near the end of my program, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to travel as much this upcoming semester. Sure, I could visit a few friends from the program who don’t go to IU, but it’s not like I could randomly decide, “You know what? I’ve heard Prague’s nice right about now, let’s go!” But, I started to realize how narrow-minded that is. I came to the realization that there is just as cool, beautiful, amazing, new, and insert any adjective that describes Europe in America. There’s Brown County that I haven’t visited, there are the National Parks, and stuff I just don’t know of. I came to the realization how much I love the USA. I always have and always will, but it seems like it means a bit more now.
I got the opportunity to go to a sporting event over break where they sang the National Anthem. My dad asked if it means anything more now, and I responded no. But reflecting on it, yes, yes it does. We live in the greatest country in the world. Spain is about the size of Texas and European countries aren’t much bigger. I loved Spain and there’s so much to do, but in comparison to the States, there’s a lot we’re missing out on.
Sure, you’ll take classes while abroad but that’s not all the learning you’ll do. I learned so much about myself, others, and cultures that it’s ridiculous. I’ll touch on culture later, but I learned so much about Spanish culture and the way of life. There are so many stereotypes other there for every culture I saw. Sure, there probably are a few of those people out there, but I never had a problem nor did I run into any anti-American sentiment. Studying abroad isn’t just an experience, it’s a learning experience. It’s unbelievable.
What better way to learn a language other than living where it’s spoken? My comprehension of Spanish is probably as good as it can get without being a native speaker since I studied, spoke, and lived in Spanish. Everything I did was revolved around the Spanish language. But, I learned a bit of languages of the places I visited too. That’s one of the reasons I’m starting to take Italian at IU. Then, there’s non-spoken language and communication. Communication is key to get around a place you don’t know and possibly can’t speak the language. Studying abroad helps your verbal and non-verbal language.
Like I said above, I learned so much about culture. Although, what was more interesting wasn’t seeing one of the cultures I’ve learned about, but to see the differences between cultures and not necessarily between the US and Culture X. The culture and things that come along with it (food, tradition, language, architecture, etc.) is incredible and even more so when you can see three or four different cultures within an hour or two of transportation. That was one of my favorite parts of studying abroad, regardless what anyone things. I’m just amazed at the cultures that I saw, how they interacted, and just the differences both big and small. Simply incredible.
6. Something Else.
I feel like I’m starting to repeat myself, so the reasoning behind these might get smaller. But, the whole experience is something else. It was probably difficult for me to imagine as a small kid getting to travel like I did. The architecture is something else. The food is something else. There are just so many things that it’s difficult to put into words that were just incredible and something else.
Now, the part everyone says and I have as well, the experience. It was an experience. I’m honored and blessed to be able to have such a great experience that, who knows and I hopefully hope not, may or may not be ever topped. I saw so many breath-taking views, so many astonishing feats, so many different cultures, tried amazing food after amazing food. It’s just an experience and one I’ll never forget.
I met so many great friends. Not only friends from IU that I probably wouldn’t have or from other schools in the United States, but also internationally. The friends just helped add to the experience. However we met (through trips, school, randomly, or planned), the friends I made were incredible. Everyone single one of them had something interesting to add or share. It’s just interesting to see the differences between people and cultures and how they interact.
You’re young. What’s a better time to do all of this? When else will you be able to travel through the world? Everyone told me, “I wish I had the opportunity when I was younger…” Don’t let that happen to you. Travel. See things. Have fun.
10. A Great Time.
If you can’t tell by reasons 1-9, they’re support for this one. It was a great time and one that won’t be forgotten.
Well, hopefully my spiel has either reaffirmed your decision to study abroad, changed your mind to want to study abroad, or maybe it has you considering it.