Undergraduate graduate summer 2016- Organizational Communication
Summer 2016- July through August
La Universidad de Cantabria- Santander, Spain
Spanish conversation, Spanish grammar, Spanish history and culture
When the thought of studying abroad ever came to my mind, I just thought that it wasn’t “for me”. I didn’t think that I was qualified, experienced, brave enough, or that I had enough time and money for a study abroad experience. After talking to my academic advisor, I decided to take a look at some programs, only to find a program in a place that I have always wanted to visit, and that fit perfectly into my schedule for classes that I needed to take.
I will not lie, I was anxious when first boarding the plane to Spain, but as the time passed on the plane, I went from being anxious-nervous to anxious-excited. I had no idea what to expect, but that’s what made it so fun. It was a completely new experience for me. Santander was small enough to the point where I could walk from one side of the town to the other within an hour. There are fewer cars, and the town is right on the coastline, so the atmosphere is noticeably clearer. The food is so fresh there; the fish that I would eat for lunch would literally be caught in the ocean that morning. I loved the challenge of placing myself in a completely new environment (let alone a completely new country) and trying to blend in to be like a “native” there, with speech, slang, and just the way that I carry myself. I found that I became blunter as I talk, not afraid to interrupt people, and I learned new hand gestures to represent things, thus learning to talk more with my hands and open my mouth a bit wider.
One of the best learning experiences that I had was travelling for a weekend to Madrid. I visited multiple cities through my two months in Spain, but Madrid the first trip I took that was not a class trip. I had to learn how the bus system works, how the subway system works, how to find a place to sleep for a night, how to blend in to become a native so I didn’t stick out looking like a tourist. Not only was I able to see the best parts of Madrid, but I was also able to learn from experience; the things that worked well for me, and the things that didn’t, so that I know what to do when planning a trip internationally on my own. This trip stretched me not only academically, but personally as well.
It’s fantastic being exposed to a new country. I know that personally, it showed me just how big the world is, and just how small I am. It is so easy to be wrapped up in my own agenda, and in my own little world. Stepping out of that life for two months to experience the world elsewhere changed my perspective on life. It also helped to grow my flexibility in plans changing (In Spain, an itinerary is as much of a priority there as it is in the United States), as well as increasing my patience with anybody who speaks another language and is having issues communicating. Now that I have been in that role where I can’t speak as fluently as other people and I am desperately trying to get a message across, I am much more understanding when speaking with people who I can’t speak English as well and they are trying to explain themselves.
I learned so many practical things within those two months in Santander, but the biggest one was to try new things. It may or may not go right the first time, but you learn each and every step of the way. For anybody that is wondering if studying abroad would benefit them, my advice to you: take that leap and do it. You’ll never know if you liked it or not if you don’t try it out. And I guarantee that you will find at least one thing that you won’t regret about a trip abroad. If you find one, then it makes it all worthwhile at the end of the day.