When you are living in a foreign country, you are doing just that: living. It isn’t until you get home that you realize how much your experience changed you.
When I returned home from studying abroad in Barcelona, it gave me time to reflect on my experiences.
Traveling isn’t always easy, especially traveling alone.
Before studying abroad, I was so nervous to take on this experience by myself. I was asking myself why didn’t I try to convince my friends to come with me so I would at least know people going in. I realize now that going alone was the best decision I could’ve made for myself. If I had waited around for people to come with me, I never would’ve gone.
Studying abroad alone also forced me to step outside my comfort zone and meet new people that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet if I had gone with friends. This is helpful not only for your social life in creating new friends, but also for your future. Being able to go into situations alone and be able to talk to people you don’t know comfortably is a great skill to have in any profession. This confidence and independence is something I didn’t realize had acquired until I got home and started trying to plan another trip abroad. Unlike the first time, I felt no nerves whatsoever because I now know that I am capable of anything.
Another major change I saw in myself was in my beliefs.
Seeing how another country operates with different laws and different customs made me realize some things about my own country. Growing up in the United States, I had a certain way of viewing things — but by living and studying in another country your beliefs and perspective may change. This isn’t a bad thing; it shows that you’re becoming more independent and informed, understanding the differences between other cultures and your own.
Studying abroad has also impacted my passion for learning.
It made me realize that learning doesn’t have to be measured by a score on an exam. I took less classes in Barcelona than I normally do at my home university, but I learned so much more than I ever have in a single semester. Many classes abroad are supplemented with out-of-classroom experiences, like museum visits, which give students a greater appreciation for what they are learning. One of my classes abroad actually inspired me to change my concentration at my home university and gave me a clearer vision of what career I want in the future.
Overall, the ways studying abroad changes you are subtle but life-changing. I came back a more confident, independent, and educated person. I encourage anyone thinking about studying abroad to go for it, even if you have to do it alone.