|Taken in Ibiza: one of my favorite cities in Spain.|
Dear Pre-Abroad Me,
There is so much I wish I had known before going abroad. I wish I knew that I would need more clothes. I wish I brought mosquito bite medicine. I wish I took into account that Sevilla's airport is smaller and therefore flights are more expensive.
...But wishing is pointless! I feel way more grateful, appreciative, and glad than ever--most of that is because I came into this with no expectations. I think this is so important to having the best time of your life because you don't get disappointed when all the imaginary scenarios you envisioned don't go according to plan.
Therefore, scratch all of those imaginary scenarios because soon, you're going to have real-life scenarios, and they will be so much more than you would have ever imagined--if you let it.
In addition, you will meet such amazing people that sometimes your heart might feel like it will burst. These are not just new friends, but kind humans on the street who will help you with directions, maybe give up trying to tell you in Spanish what they are trying to say and guide you right to where you need to be (yes, that happens), or even spend time asking the kids at the school you volunteer at if they had seen or heard of someone picking up your dropped metro card until they find the kid who picked it up and bring it back to you (yes, that also happens).
Every day, it never ceases to surprise me when locals here show me even the smallest acts of kindness. I think it is because being a foreigner really hinders me more than I like to admit, especially the language barrier; so, when a stranger helps me out, it always makes my day.
Really put yourself out there, though. You shape your experiences. My most rewarding experience has been volunteering one hour every week at a local primary school. If you thought little American kids were cute, you need to see little European children. They always greet me with hugs, a kiss on each cheek, and an incomprehensible (at least to me) string of Spanish. If you have the opportunity to work with kids abroad, I highly recommend it.
All in all, I guarantee that you will come back a different person. You will have seen more aspects about a country, get to know and understand the contrasting ways people in places other than America live, and pick up a new language. If that doesn't change you in some way, I don't know what would!
And if I can give you one piece of advice, it is to try as many restaurants and local foods as you can because sometimes, you just can't find that same food--and that same taste--once you're back in the States.
Cynthia Hara is the Fall 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in Seville, Spain. She is currently a junior at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
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