Study Abroad

Alumni Stories -- Nora Peterson ('14)

“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.

Granada (Photo: E. Hopkins 2009)

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.

Nora Peterson
IWU 2014
IES Granada 2012