Studying Abroad – Why I did it and What I Learned
I had always known I wanted to travel the world, but there was a part of me that was nervous about actually studying for a whole term in another country. Was I going to get homesick? Was I going to get along with the other students? Would the language barrier be too overwhelming? All of these questions and more made me hesitant to go abroad. In the end, however, a perfect opportunity sprung itself upon me – Toledo, Spain. I still needed 3 more quarters of Spanish in order to graduate, and I admit the thought of doing these classes in Spain as opposed to in a boring classroom appealed to me. Also, it was a summer study session, which meant I didn’t have to miss a quarter of actual school. I ended up putting in an application and was accepted into the program.
Three months later, my plane touched down in Spain. I was alone in Madrid and didn’t have a clue how to get to my hostel. I had never taken the metro before, and I had never really had to maneuver the streets of a big city before – especially in Spanish. I surprised myself that day. I rode the metro, and after a few wrong stops and many helpful strangers, I found the hostel that was to be my home for the night. Being in a position where I had to find this place, made me feel so confident in my ability to be on my own.
In Toledo, I met my host mother and she did not speak one word of English. It was difficult the first couple of weeks because it was Spanish overload. The television, the newspapers, the people – all Spanish. I had never been that out of my element before. It made me more observant of their culture and I found myself comparing and contrasting life in Spain to life in America.
Overall, living in Toledo was probably the best experience of my life thus far. It wasn’t because I had the opportunity to take an amazing vacation, but because I learned so much about myself. I learned how to travel alone, I learned how to fend for myself. I would argue that studying abroad is one of the best growing experiences for a college student.
Interested? Make the first move! Go to your university’s study abroad office and ask for more information. Also, most schools have ways to help financially aid these trips. Loans, scholarships and other aid generally applies, so it never hurts to ask!