Things They Don’t Tell You About Studying Abroad

IMG_7841.jpg

By Audra Weigand

Before I spent my semester studying in Toledo, Spain, I figured that studying abroad would be smooth sailing. My perception was that I would meet some cool people, improve my Spanish a little and also get to travel to some spectacular places. While all those things did happen, after spending 4 months living in Spanish culture, it is safe to say that the whole time wasn’t rainbows and fun. It is important to realize that your time abroad will have downfalls and there will be challenges, but in the end it makes the experience so worth your while.

  1. You will feel homesick. This seems obvious but you don’t know how many days I longed to eat mac and cheese (my biggest comfort food) or text my friends anytime without needing WiFi. For me, the homesickness didn’t set in until I had been in Spain for a month; however when it did, it hit me hard. We often take for granted the small little comforts of our own culture, but they become very evident once we are placed in a new environment.

  2. If you are learning a language, sometimes you will struggle. Prior to studying abroad, I had been learning Spanish for 5 years, and while I had a really solid knowledge base going into the experience, I had my fair share of awkward moments. Some days I felt like I could understand everything my host family was saying; other days it was like they were speaking to me in a completely different dialect.

  3. Your travel plans will get messed up at least once (probably a lot more than that). My friends and I decided to take a weekend trip to Morocco and due to unforeseen weather, ended up taking a ship back to Spain during a high seas storm. Let’s just say that a majority of the people on the boat got sick… and I was one of them.

  4. Your courses abroad may be harder than you would think. I signed up for an art class while I was in Spain, but came to realize that the class was actually an architecture course. I had no background in architecture. I struggled throughout the semester but my hours of studying and learning new vocabulary words paid off in the end.

  5. Time abroad goes faster than you think it will. When I finally felt like I was adjusted to Spanish culture, it was time for me to return to the United States. My biggest advice to students who are hoping to go abroad is to enjoy your time when you are there and discover something new every day. This opportunity doesn’t come often and it’s all about what you make of it. Like they say, time flies when you are having fun.

IMG_8034.jpg

Although I didn’t know these things before going to Spain, I believe that learning them along the way, while challenging, proved to be one of the most valuable parts of my experience. It goes to show that you don’t know what you are capable of unless you take the risk. My time in Spain is something that I will never forget. The memories, lessons and country will remain a part of me for the rest of my life.

So if you are thinking about traveling or already have embarked on a new journey, remember there will be hard times, but those moments make the whole experience more valuable in the end.  

Happy travels! ¡Buen viaje!