Since it’s the end of the semester, the hot conversation topics consist of: “bittersweet feelings,” how do you feel about being abroad now that it’s almost over, and would you have done anything differently?
What I have repeated over and over again, subtly or not, in each blog post I have written since the day I set foot in Europe, studying abroad is an experience so far from anything else you will do. If you have the chance or the possibility to do it, go. Don’t hesitate and don’t think twice about it. It will be one of the hardest things you do, sometimes in ways you didn’t expect, but it will be one of the best things you will ever experience.
Being able to immerse yourself in another culture, whether there is a language barrier or not, is something that changes your outlook on life. From studying abroad you gain a new perspective on things: your world becomes a little bigger. “Broadening your horizons” is a phrase I use jokingly with people, but in the most literal sense, this is what studying abroad does.
To sum it up, this is why you need to go:
- You will become the best version of yourself from it.
- You will learn so much about yourself, and how to jump out of the comfort zone you have had.
Even when you are filling out all the paper work and applications, you will have no idea what is going to happen until the day you leave. I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t bite all my nails off or call home the second I got a hold of good wifi. It’s absolutely normal to feel that way.
My friends and I have talked about how we felt at the beginning when we first got to Spain, and we all agreed it was a mixed feeling because we hadn’t adjusted yet. Don’t let that stop you, and when that feeling hits, I promise you the first two weeks are the hardest and it gets easier!
Classes help a lot because you get a schedule and they are interesting too because they are sort of a hidden tour guide for you throughout the semester, giving you information about the area and region you are studying in.
What I do recommend, which makes it so more challenging, is to go somewhere where they don’t speak English. Not that English speaking countries aren’t beautiful and have culture and lessons to impart, but it’s an entirely different experience going somewhere where English is not the dominant language. I can tell you plenty of cities in Europe where they will switch to English when they hear you make a mistake or don’t complete the sentence correctly. But that’s why being fully immersed in a place where English isn’t the dominant language is so beneficial, because it challenges you to learn the language and be able to get by in everyday life with the basics of that language.
No matter where you go, the best part of studying abroad is exploring. In four months (plus 1 week) when my semester is over, I was lucky enough to be able to visit seven different countries, cross two continents, and see a whole lot of Spain. This is the other big piece of advice I suggest: save up as much as you can in every way. Cut back on things you don’t need and save them for things you might want to do abroad. I saved up for a long time to come abroad and I am so happy I did, because travelling can be cheap here. Even though I ate a lot of crackers and peanut butter sandwiches the past four months to save money, it was absolutely worth it.
I chose AIFS after going abroad with its sister program, ACIS, in high school and I am grateful for sticking with the program. I saw more of Spain and its culture than I thought I could. I know people who came without a program and I would advise against it. Going with a program, especially AIFS who could not have been more helpful even if they tried, is really the best way to go about spending a semester overseas.
Plan ahead, take any chance you get. I promise you, it’s an opportunity you might not ever get again: to go to a foreign country to live and experience their culture. It is the most bittersweet feeling leaving a place like this, but I have some people to see when I get home!
Take every chance and never stop adventuring.