By: Mariana Souza
Each year, millions of people move across the planet to study abroad. However, the experience can be quite challenging. The difficulties do not only come with the language issues, which most people expect, they come from the moment you start planning. Last year I spent a semester in Spain, in the beautiful city of Valencia. And even though I loved it, Spain has never been my first option. Actually, I only decided to go there in the week before Christmas, and I had to travel in a month.
Unpredictable and unexpected describe my prior experience and its aspects perfectly. At a point, I had no idea about where I was going and what I would do to get there. It took me almost a year to get things sorted out. If it depended on my folks, they would put me in a box and pet me. But that didn’t happen. People say that I manage to be more stubborn than both my parents combined. Perhaps it is in the genes…
With the help of my persuasion skills alongside some melodrama, I was on track convincing them to let me go to Spain. And it worked. Why I chose Spain? I don’t really know, but I was determined. In the length of a month I applied for the program, did a test, got my student visa and left. A month with Christmas break in the middle.
Spain was my safest option, my ace in the hole, my Plan Z. And I was 100% right and 100% wrong for thinking that. Planning to study abroad was difficult, studying abroad there was even more. This is not a reason to be discouraged to go to Spain or to study abroad somewhere else. Nobody can take the blame for my struggles. Each person has a completely different experience, a different perspective, a different reality. And even when you encounter obstacles, the outcome will be determined by the way you deal with it. You can stop and wait for the Earth to move, or just find your way forward.
It was tough, challenging, and sometimes almost unbearable. I missed home. I didn’t quite fit in. And I had just turned 16. Giving up seemed like a reasonable option. However, every second was worth it, and I thank God for not letting this opportunity run out of my hands. Nowadays, I look back at my time in Spain, and see it as one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever gone through. And it was exactly what I needed to grow as a person, to mature.
Therefore, I sincerely encourage you to give it a try. If you are ever given the opportunity to study abroad, hold on to it. And if you are not given the opportunity, seek it. It is a surprisingly delightful adventure. It gives you the chance of immersing in a new culture, exploring life from a different point of view. Learning a language abroad not only means studying, but also experiencing the language with your five senses.
And if it ends up not working, pack your bags and move on to the next adventure. You have a whole life to explore.
Hopefully I’ll hear back from you! Tell me about your experiences abroad, and if you have any questions, just let me know! I’ll do my best to help you out!
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