I thought I had it all figured out. My mental checklist was complete, my tour guide books were packed, and I attended every informative study abroad lecture possible. I'd exhausted myself with Google searches on Alicante, safety in Spain, and conjugations of every conjugation.
I have to say that all of these things gave me a great foundation for coming to Spain BUT... Study abroad is an experience you can only have by DOING it; I can't express this enough. Nothing I read could have prepared me for the wonderful things I have experienced, the cultural and language glitches I've laughed (and cried) over, and the people here that have impacted me in such a short time. I cannot imagine going through the rest of my academic career without having broadened my scope of the world or earning my Spanish degree without coming here to experience the language and culture first hand. It is a completely valuable experience that I would say should be obligatory for every young person.
Here is a short list things of I've learned that I didn't expect to:
- Everyone wants the same thing. Despite notable cultural differences, you really start to realize that all people are ruled on a basic principle of wanting to live their life happily.
- Learning about Spain has made me reflect more on my own country and customs and given me a greater sense of what it means to me to be American.
- Never underestimate the power of charades! :) Communication isn’t always just about words and people have been so friendly and patient with helping me improve my Spanish!
- You have complete control over your own experience aboard. Whatever things you decide to do, people you meet, or how much your language improves directly correlates to your willingness to try and try again.
- Good friends that you make here, whether international or from your program, will be friends for life. You’re sharing a once in a lifetime experience together!
Good friends that you make here, whether international or from your program, will be friends for life. You're sharing a once in a lifetime experience together!
Shareena Wilhelm is currently studying abroad in Alicante, Spain this Fall 2013 semester. She attends Western Washington University.
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