1. You’ll be richer. Obviously I don’t mean money, but richness doesn’t just refer to money! You will gain the “richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place”. I’ve seen this quote several times, but it didn’t really hit me until recently, until I realized that I have to leave Spain soon. When I came to this realization the other day, I had a really hard time coming to terms with it! I went on a long run and then sat and thought for a while. I realized that I’ll never be the same again because I feel at home in more than one place. When I left the United States, I cried like a baby (those of you who know me well know that I rarely cry) because I knew that I would miss the people, the culture and the things that I am comfortable with. Although I was excited for the journey ahead, there’s always a little bit of nervousness and fear of the unknown too. And now, I think I’m going to cry when I have to leave Spain. I’ve immensely enjoyed my experience here in Spain and it hurts to have to leave it all behind. Although I’m torn because I love two places so much and I love the people in both places as well, I’ve realized that not everyone gets to experience that feeling. Some people don’t even love one place. I’m so blessed to even have people and places to miss this much.
2. When else in your life can you drop everything and travel the world? Usually it’s not so easy. I know personally for me, and for most people, later in life we will have families and jobs to tend to, the usual stuff. It’s kind of hard to just leave all of that to go live somewhere else and travel for 4 months…So, take the opportunity while it’s in reach.
3. Comfort zones are stupid. Why in the world do we let our comfort zones dictate our experiences? I guess I can only speak for myself, but personally, I don’t want to look back on my life and realize that I didn’t take an opportunity because I was scared. Fear can’t kill you. Another one of my favorite quotes/illustrations shows a circle and inside the circle it says “Your comfort zone” and then there’s an arrow that points to the outside of the circle and it says “Where the magic happens”. I couldn’t agree more. I think doing things that you’re afraid of is good for you!
4. You learn A LOT. Especially if you go to a country where you don’t know the language. I’ve never learned so much in such a short period of time. By “learning” I mean you learn a lot, not only about language, but tons of other things as well. Oh, and if your classes are pass/fail, sign up for a study abroad program. Now.
5. Cultural Awareness. I’ve written about this in another blog, but I think it’s important, so I’ll repeat myself. If you’ve never lived or traveled outside of the US or studied other cultures, you might not be super culturally aware. And this isn’t a bad thing!!! I know it’s not interesting for everyone. But American culture is only one of many, many, many other cultures in the world that’s out there! It blows my mind that there are tons of other people in the world just like you and me that live completely different than we do. When more people recognize this, I think it’s a step towards being more accepting of people who are different from us in beliefs, appearances, traditions, etc and it’ll help us to realize why people are the way they are and why they do the things they do.
6. New Perspective. As my friend Ben says, everything is 20/20 in hindsight. When you don’t have all of the things you’re used to having anymore, you realize that you may have taken things for granted and realize you should appreciate them more! For example, things to appreciate even more when I return to the United States: Being 2 hours away from almost everyone I know instead of 20, owning a car and being able to drive, American holidays, Heat and AC, Chipotle burritos, Chick-Fil-A cookies, living on campus, 3G networks, being able to talk to ANYONE because WE SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE!, etc. So maybe some of those are ridiculous, but you get the point. And the list goes on…but at the same time, there are a lot of things I know I will look back on from my time in Spain and realize that I miss so many of those things too.
7. You’ll make new friends! I have to admit that studying abroad brings an interesting crew together in one location. All of the students in the international program at my school are so diverse, but so awesome and nice. I’ve gotten the chance to get to know a lot of them and it’s been really great. In addition to that, you make new friends at your home university! When I go back to CNU after this semester, I’ll have three more really great friends. Erin, Mary, Ben and I have had so much fun getting to know each other and traveling together. I know each one of us has expressed to each other how lucky we are to have such a great group from CNU.
8. YOU WILL HAVE THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE. I’ve been to 5 countries and 11 cities in the past 3 months, if I even remembered them all. It’s a crazy but amazing lifestyle…there’s always something exciting to be looking forward to! I will also add that I’ve spent less money than I expected to (traveling in Europe is cheap!), and I still got to do so much!
Going into college, the thought never crossed my mind to study abroad. I thought I was going to follow the “normal” lifestyle of a college student, but I’m so glad I didn’t. Open your mind and go see the world!!!!!!!!!