Without a doubt, studying abroad can provide students with many experiences and tools that will come to good use after graduation. But I think the better question would be: what lessons from study abroad don’t stick with us after graduation? Other than the exquisite experiences and memories, we’re left with great friends and potential business contacts from all over the world, knowledge about a new and unique culture, perhaps the command of a new language, and unparalleled, newfound knowledge about ourselves.
Most practically, I have improved my ability and my confidence in speaking Spanish. I have always been strong and felt an affinity for the language, but here I feel it becoming natural. It is no longer supremely mentally taxing or at all unnatural to speak Spanish. I find myself responding to Spanish instinctually, even when spoken to in English. I find myself thinking in Spanish and naturally reverting to my new culture’s native tongue. It feels good.
On a more emotional level, it is an excellent feeling to make connections here, both with locals and with fellow expatriates. I have made friends from Massachusetts, California, Colorado, New York, as well as some from Dominical, Puerto Viejo, and Montezuma and Costa Rica. But along with the friends I’ve made, the program has been very useful in making some contacts that could be useful later on in my career. The networking opportunities here have been amazing.
Other than the new people and fascinating opportunities I’m able to take advantage of, my perspective has completely blossomed during my study abroad experience. In a nutshell, adventure has become a top priority of mine during my study abroad experience. I never really fully realized before exactly how much there is to explore in the world. But rest assured, any study abroad experience is an amazing way to learn exactly how small we are in comparison to this big world we inhabit. And that idea, of the many important ones we learn, is very important to remember post-graduation. It can be both a daunting thought and a comforting one. The world is so big it can be easy for us to feel like minnows in a giant ocean, just going with the flow, unable to make a difference. But simultaneously, the world is so big and full of opportunities and it’s very comforting to know that no matter how overwhelming our problems seem to us, they’re really not that big.
Study abroad can teach us a lot about different host countries, other people, and ourselves. But sometimes it’s more important to focus on common denominators. Study abroad experiences teach us a lot about what values can be important across the entire world, we can experience firsthand how similar all humans are. Study abroad can also help us out of our comfort zones and give us opportunities to practice finding common ground with anybody we come across. And it is this type of empathy that is important to keep in mind, no matter what our plans are for after graduation.
Spring 2013 CEA MOJO Macey Hallstedt, bringing you the “Pura Vida” from San José, Costa Rica!
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