Going to school a few hours from home, a state or two away or even across the country will never compare to taking classes in another country. After being on a trip of a lifetime, while fulfilling credits for my major, I learned more than what I was just taught in the classroom.
Since going on a study abroad trip for one month in Granada, Spain, I have much more appreciation for language, culture and air conditioning. Having this opportunity and experience has made me a big advocate for study abroad programs here at ECU or any college. I think everyone should go on a study abroad because it teaches you more about life post college and helps you acquire skills you didn’t know that you needed.
While in Spain I stayed with a host family and this can relate to post college life like having to live with a random roommate. You have to learn each others boundaries, share a house key till you can make copies and respect each others spaces.
On the first day of class my host family walked with me on my 45 minute journey to the Universidad de Granada. I then learned, that was going to be my walk everyday for four weeks and I had to learn the path in that one day because every day after I was on my own. This is just like moving to a new city, having to learn the roads, where the nearest Dunkin Donuts is and where your job is. You have to navigate and learn on your own.
Adapting to the new environment is another post college life skill. Since I’m from Maryland, I had to adapt to the new environments and culture down in the south that I was not used to. People saying ‘y’all’ instead of ‘you guys’ and the saying ‘bless your heart’ isn’t a compliment. Abroad I learn that social boundaries and culture are different as well. I learned the hard way that it is not normal to pet someone else’s dog in public, versus in the U.S. you see that daily. I learned more about the language than I ever have in my five years of Spanish in school. Immersing yourself in the language and culture is the only way to truly learn what you’ve been trying to learn in the classroom.
Culturally, eggs is not something you eat for breakfast, lunch is at 2 p.m. sharp. Siesta causes businesses to close for two hours, never skip out on tapas, dinner is at 10 p.m. and the night life doesn't go to sleep until the sun comes up. All of these factors are completely different than anything that goes on in the United States, but it really opens your mind. You get a first hand look at what goes on in the world and other people’s norms, rather than what goes on in your small world at school or home.
Other than broadening your horizons, learning new languages and culture, there is the fun to study abroad that everyone should be able to experience too. Traveling around Spain was one of the best parts of the trip. We spent two nights in Madrid, traveled to Granada where we met our host families and where our permanent stay for the trip was. We then took weekend trips to Nejia, Sevilla, Cordoba and Adra. We got to see more of Spain than just the small place we were every day.
There is so much more I can say about study abroad programs and the amazing experiences. Even if you decide to not go study abroad, but instead travel over the summer or after graduation, I truly believe that it is beneficial to you and your adulting life. Everyone should go study abroad or travel when the chance presents itself. Now that we are young, this is one of the only times where we have little responsibility and can do do whatever we want.