AIFS student Gabrielle is studying in Salamanca this semester before college. It’s only November, but she already has a lot to say about why going abroad for a gap year is so important. Read on:
When we graduate from high school, we believe that college is the next step to take. But why? In the States we are thrown into a routine that society has already planned for us. We’re supposed to work hard throughout high school, pray we earn high enough SAT scores, get to college and then hopefully figure out what we want to do with the rest of our lives. What if you were given the chance to go against the status quo? What if you had an opportunity that allowed you to explore the world in a way you’ve never been able to before, to let go of your day to day routine and immerse yourself in a new culture, language, and embrace new people and their views about the world. Studying abroad can give you exactly that and much more.
For me, studying abroad was something I always saw myself doing at one point in my life. When I turned 18, I graduated from high school and was presented with the opportunity to study abroad in Salamanca, Spain. Without hesitation I said yes. Although leaving everything I’ve ever known and moving abroad fresh out of high school was a bit frightening, I knew it was something that would change my life for the better. And I was right; it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Before I moved, I was lost and had no idea what direction to take. I felt as though I had a lot to offer but wasn’t certain what my contributions would be. But now that I’ve lived in Salamanca for three months, I have been inspired to live with more of an open mind and try things I never would have before. The people I have met here have been such an incredible part of my growth. Living in the States I was surrounded by the same opinions and views my entire life. When I moved to Salamanca, I met people from all over the world and from all walks of life; I have learned something from each encounter. Studying abroad has also helped me become more secure in who I am as a person because of the independence. If I went to college instead of going abroad, it would have been a longer process for me to learn how to handle life’s obstacles without the assistance of my parents. It was an extremely valuable lesson to learn how to live on my own because now I feel that if I can live in a country where I didn’t know anyone at first, let alone the language, I can do anything.
I believe that those who choose to study abroad right after they graduate from high school automatically set themselves apart from other students their age. It takes a strong, curious, and extremely brave individual to drop everything they know and move to a different country–especially at the age of 17 or 18. Over time you will see yourself progress, change, and grow in a way you never thought possible. College will always be there; a semester in Spain during the some of your best and most formative years is something you can only do once.