“I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world
around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” – Lillian Smith
When I reflect on my time spent abroad in Spain, the first things that come to mind are
not the breathtaking views, both natural and man-made, that I witnessed while traveling
throughout the country nor are they the incredible people that I met while I was there,
with whom I still keep in contact to this day. The first thing that comes to mind
is the amazing personal growth that I experienced with living in Spain for a semester.
What makes studying abroad different from any other traveling opportunity is the ability
to lay down roots in a completely new and foreign place. While abroad, I developed
amazing friendships, pushed my personal limits, experienced my first heartbreak, and
learned so much about myself in the process. That semester abroad will forever be
a special time in my life and while it may have been challenging at times, I wouldn’t
change a thing about it.
Here is a list of my top 3 suggestions for optimizing your study abroad experience.
1. Live your life in this new place. It’s true that there is a sense of temporality while studying abroad, but I advise
living your life as normally as possible. Find a favorite café and befriend the owners.
Go on walks or runs to become better acquainted with your neighborhood. Try every
restaurant at least once and then go to your favorite every week with your friends.
Take advantage of travel opportunities but make sure that you spend at least a few
weekends enjoying the activities available in your home base.
2. Travel around your new country. Traveling to other countries is one of the most exciting and enticing opportunities
that will be available while studying abroad and I advise that you take advantage
of such opportunities. But, even more so, I recommend that you make the effort to
travel all over your new host country. Take the time to really explore the country
and see all the beauty and variety it has to offer.
3. Push your own personal boundaries. The worst regrets are the opportunities that are left untaken. Parts of studying
abroad will be uncomfortable and even scary, but the personal growth and satisfaction
that you will feel from persevering will astonish you. If you go to a country that
requires you to speak in another language, which I highly recommend, take advantage
of the opportunities to practice speaking with natives. Do the things that you never
thought you would, or could, do. And love every moment of it.