When I signed up to study abroad, I was in a very independent stage of my life. I wanted to get out of dodge and explore. Studying abroad sounded like the best idea I had i
n awhile. I can understand how for some people though, moving to a different country could be a pretty frightening idea.
It is flying thousands of miles to a country where only a handful of people know a handful of English, a language Americans nearly take for granted.
And it is far, far away from everyone you know — your friends, family, or your significant other.
But go. Do it. It will be the best time of your life.
I lived with a host family in Seville, Spain for three months. The family was gorgeous. A real Spaniard family, drinking red wine at lunch and arguing so much ’til someone stomped out of the room. Cristina, the youngest child, and the same age as me, spoke the only English in the house. This helped out tremendously when I landed and my luggage was still in L.A. 🙂 Go me. However, the program I was in, assigned each student to an American roommate. Mine, was Jenny from Seattle.
We eased slowly into a blossoming friendship. But in the beginning as you can imagine, we had to take the time and courage to learn about each other. We were from different parts of the US, shared completely different backgrounds, and Jenny was the brighter student of the two of us. She was more advanced in her Spanish speaking skills, leaving her to communicate with our Host Mother at a whole different level. However, my efforts at speaking to the family always came in handy for good laugh.
Everyday Amparro, our host mother, set toast and coffee out for Jenny and me. Then the rest of the day was ours, with school in there somewhere of course. We spent our free time exploring the city and meeting up with our new friends from the program. There were at least ten of us who became really close, really quickly. We did everything together and we were there for each other. The bond was real.
The experiences I have shared so far are just a few of the enlightening events that happened on this excursion, but I wanted to share the reason why I went to Spain and how it benefitted me and my future.
I went to master my Spanish speaking ability. I was placed in Intermediate Spanish that met four hours a day, four days a week. This seemed like a tough challenge. All those hours. All that work. And then, I met my professor. He was an authentic professional who taught me the everyday lingo of his culture. His lessons began with a story. How would we get from point A to point B out on the streets or in a restaurant or even approaching someone, in Seville? This question would then lead into our daily Spanish life lesson. For these four hours he spoke only Spanish. Exactly what he expected out of all of us.
I feel this professor also enlightened me of how to effectively teach. This enlightenment gave me the courage to start volunteering my time at an all girls vocational school nearby. I prepared lessons and quizzed the girls on their English. They looked up to me not only as a teacher, but as an American friend.
Another challenge I wanted to master was being able to be far away from my family. I felt I had prepared myself to some extent in living in Hawaii for a year, but a different continent.. It may sound silly, but I wanted to feel like a ‘real’ adult having to miss holidays because they just can’t make it. Like, “Sorry Mom, I’m living out my dreams in Spain.”
Spain was the most beautiful place, the most beautiful time, and the most beautiful people.
The challenges and adventures I faced in Spain broadened my horizons in significant ways. I still hold the theory that students who have studied abroad see the world in a completely different way. We experienced teaching ourselves how to live all over again. My personal experiences helped me to become proficient in Spanish, expand my network of connections, and prepared myself for the life long adventure ahead.