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Studying Abroad: A Life-changing Experience

 Barcelona, Spain

When you go abroad, you expect to come back a ‘new person’, but you probably won’t realize these changes until it’s about time for you to come home. Before going abroad, I spoke with a few friends who had previously taken this ‘life-changing journey’ and none of them could put their experiences into words. After being away from home for a full three and a half months now, I understand why it is so difficult to explain. It is not one particular ‘thing’ that changes, it's many little things. When these little changes are then put together, you slowly realize that you are becoming a more mature, cultured human being.
 Rome, Italy

My first day in Barcelona came as a complete shock to me. I felt like an alien in this new ‘world’. I didn’t speak the language and I had no idea where to go or where I was going. At first I was so lost and honestly, a little bit scared. Looking back on this initial fear has in turn made me realize how much I have grown from this experience. Every day I would encourage myself to wander off a little further, and then slowly come back to what was familiar to me. I would spend my time between classes roaming the streets and learning more about my new home. It was so exciting discovering new shops and restaurants, as well as meeting new people on a daily basis. When I first arrived, I was convinced that it would take me until my last day to learn my way around or to learn how to use the metro. Despite my assumptions, after about two weeks, these both came naturally. Not only did I learn how to navigate around a city that was unfamiliar to me, but I also learned how to communicate with people with minimal Spanish and body language. These skills helped me in every country I have visited since. My sense of direction has significantly improved, I am more confident exploring new places, and I am better at non-verbal communication. These are all skills that I can utilize in both my personal and business life.
 Prague, Czech Republic

Another change that I noticed in myself is my newfound love of spending some time alone. Before coming abroad, I always had to be with other people. I absolutely hated being by myself and would do anything to avoid it. Living abroad was a perfect time to learn more about myself and what I enjoy doing. I was displaced from everything familiar to me, so there was no reason to act anyway other than myself. There was no longer a need to impress anyone because I was in a completely different country where nobody knew who I was or where I came from. Engaging in new cultures gave me a new appreciation of languages and architecture, whereas other students realized they were passionate about food, religion, art etc. Going off on my own has empowered me to have clearer thoughts, engage in activities I enjoy, and love myself. There’s a saying that goes “No one’s going to love you if you don’t love yourself”. I have noticed strengths and weaknesses in myself that I never realized due to my ‘Monophobia’ and without this experience, I would have never learned to love myself the way I do now.
 Paris, France

When you go abroad, you are not going to wake up one morning and feel like a ‘new’ person, but you will gradually notice little changes in yourself that enhance the person you already are.
 Krka Waterfalls, Croatia

Brittany Stark is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in Barcelona, Spain. She is currently a senior at The University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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