By Alex Larsen, Seville
I wouldn't recommend it. If anyone asks me if they should study abroad, I'm not going to suggest that they do. Hear me out...
Venturing on a semester abroad means leaving behind everything that you know. It means holding your own shower head, eating lentils several times each week, and going four months without Netflix (some countries excluded). A semester abroad means making memories with people you just met and may never see again. It means sleeping on IKEA's version of a mattress, which equates to a few sheets of cardboard with some cotton balls glued between the top two layers. Spending a semester abroad means not seeing your friends for at least four months - maybe seven, if you have differing plans for the summer. It means no air conditioning, no heat, and exceptionally limited hot water (results may vary). It means having to figure out the world for yourself, all the while trying to keep the world from devouring you.
|One of Seville's biggest attractions (and a backdrop for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace) - The Plaza de España|
It also means seeing sights that you only imagined must be real. It means weekends are suddenly enough time to travel to another country (or two). A semester abroad means you eat "exotic" foods where they are considered common. It means making friends that you would have never crossed paths with on American soil. Four months away from home means you get to figure out who you really are - and just how capable you are to live in this crazy world. It means walking through scenes from movies and taking pictures that insist on being Instagrammed. One semester away from school means you realize the things you love about home, and you figure out what you can live without. It means the world is smaller than you ever thought.
Still, I wouldn't recommend it. Studying abroad is a big-time decision. The biggest decision many college students make each day is which cereal to eat (and if the milk is too sour to pour over those Frosted Flakes). Deciding to take your life out of its safe, little box and drop it into another country is bigger than Captain Crunch or Tony the Tiger. It's a little bit like cliff jumping; once your feet have left the edge, all you can do is accept it. The trick is to enjoy the free fall before the water rushes up to meet your feet. Once you get your feet wet, it doesn't take long to be in over your head. I wouldn't recommend cliff jumping, either.
|Time to wander means seeing the little details in things|
My success doesn't guarantee that you won't slap the water hard enough to turn your skin black and blue. If you have any hesitation while standing on the edge, by all means - stay on the cliff. The view is still pretty great. But if you jump - jump hard. It's your decision if you go for it or not, and you have to commit.
|Sunset over Seville|
That's why I wouldn't recommend it. I don't want any part of your semester abroad - great or awful - to be on my word; it's not my adventure. If you're going to study abroad, make your decision. Pick your destination, and jump hard. If you own it - make it 100% yours - then you can fully enjoy the highs and have the determination to make them outnumber any lows.
Studying abroad has been a great adventure for me, but I wouldn't recommend it.
Alex Larsen is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in Seville, Spain. He is currently a junior at The University of Northwestern - St. Paul.
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