This week I leave for Barcelona and head back home to Louisville, Kentucky. It's been four months since I arrived in Spain and the time has flown by - just as I was told it would. Studying abroad has been an experience. I've tried to find an adjective to place before the word experience, but each time I write one down I delete it. Perhaps this is because there is no single adjective to describe the type of experience studying in a foreign country offers.
You will often hear students refer to studying abroad as a "life changing experience". This may be true for some, but not for me. I feel as if I came to Europe with a deep understanding of myself. What studying abroad has been for me is something very different. Studying abroad has taught me to be appreciative. I've always appreciated everything I've ever been given, but studying abroad has given this concept greater significance.
While studying in Spain and traveling Europe, I've had the chance to interact with individuals of many different nationalities, cultures, and socioeconomic situations. No two individual situations are perfectly similar, and thus it is nearly impossible to compare them. But what I have been able to do is come to one conclusion for certain: I have been fortunate enough to receive everything I could ever ask for in my life.
My life in the United States is very different than my life in Europe. Back home, I have access to the best healthcare possible, job opportunities and vast professional networks, best friends that I've known since middle school, and of course, a family that I love very much. Studying abroad has been refreshing. It has allowed me to lead a new life in a foreign culture. I've explored the world, met incredible people, and moved many steps closer to speaking fluent Spanish. But today is exciting. I am ready to return home. I have so much to be thankful for in my life back home, and studying abroad has taught me that I cannot take anything for granted.
While I'm sad to leave this beautiful country that is Spain, I am excited for what lies ahead. I'm not sure when I will return to Europe, but it will certainly be in the near future. I am feeling a lot of mixed emotions right now, but I most strongly feel a sense of appreciation and gratitude. Thank you Mom, Dad, and IES Barcelona for the experience of a lifetime.
Have you ever travelled abroad for a short holiday and said to yourself: ‘I could really see myself living here someday’? Or ever read about a foreign culture and thought: ‘I belong in a place like that’? Millions of people around the world have taken that big step and are living in a different country to the one that they grew up in. They have jobs, they study, and they even have their own families there. So, what made them take the leap and move abroad?
One of the most significant reasons is that a foreign culture may be more suitable to your personality, attitude, and beliefs than your native one. Many people are attracted to another country because they like the way they do things, their social codes and traditions, for example. It could be to do with the way in which people interact with one another, or the music, the festivals and celebrations, the history, the art, and not forgetting the food! It is wonderful to go and live abroad in order to be immersed in a culture that is extraordinary to you, where you can experience things that wouldn’t be on offer at home.
Another motivation for the move is for work or study opportunities. Your perfect job or degree may just be waiting for you over there, in need of your skills, knowledge and ambition. Speaking another language will more than double your chances of such an opportunity, as more and more employers are looking for bilingual people to send over to their offices abroad. If you are reading this, then you are well on your way to making this dream a reality, as speaking English will open many doors and could mean the path to a life in the UK, USA, Australia, and many other countries.
Moreover, living abroad is an enriching experience because it forces you to adapt to things that are unfamiliar and unusual to you. You become independent and open to new, exciting, or terrifying challenges that you would never have encountered in your home country. And that is the most rewarding of all: the opportunity to learn and develop as a person, because you will discover things about yourself that you may not have known before; your beliefs, your passions, your character. Through interacting within a foreign society, your eyes will be open to all sorts of aspects of life that would be difficult to learn in your native country.
These are just a couple of the many reasons why people choose to buy that one-way ticket and establish themselves in a foreign country. It may be temporary, it may be forever, but one thing that is guaranteed is that you’ll never look back.