How have you changed as a person after studying abroad?
I think studying abroad has made me more confident and independent. I didn’t know anyone that was going to be in my program so, especially at first, I only had myself to rely on. I had to figure out how to navigate multiple airports and ask for help in Spanish, by myself. When I first arrived in Spain, I was so terrified to ask anybody anything because I thought I was going to make a fool of myself and that no one would understand me and vice versa. However, as I talked to more people, I became much more confident in my abilities and was quick to ask for help whenever I needed it. Even when I came home, I found myself being less timid and stubborn about asking for help and I’m more confident when meeting new people since everyone in Spain was a complete stranger to me.
What self-discovery surprised you?
One thing that I learned about myself is that I’m almost always in a rush and sometimes I don’t know how to just relax. Honestly, I get anxiety sometimes when I have nothing to do because I’m too accustomed to constantly running around from task to task. Sometimes in Spain I would catch myself speed walking home from class for absolutely no reason. It was in a beautiful city with gorgeous weather, yet I was rushing to get back to my dorm to do absolutely nothing. Granted, I always knew that I was this way; however, I don’t think I realized how much I was missing by doing this. When I actually took my time and enjoyed the scenery, I noticed so many things that I never had before. I did the same thing when I came back to Oakland for the first time. People have even pointed out that I walk so much slower now that I’m more relaxed.
If you took courses in your major; how has studying abroad impacted your understanding of your major?
I didn’t take any courses in my major, but I learned the importance of being aware and accepting of cultural differences. Being culturally competent is something constantly stressed in nursing and I think this experience gave me really great insight on that.
Single greatest benefit of studying abroad?
I think the greatest benefit was learning about a different culture firsthand. My Cultures and Stereotypes class really opened my eyes to the differences between the US and Spain and why we do things certain ways. For example, the restaurant process in Spain was so confusing and almost irritating at first. Instead of being primarily paid in tips, waiters and waitresses get paid a higher salary. Therefore, they aren’t trying to rush people out so they can wait on more tables and make more money. It’s actually encouraged that people stay at restaurants after eating to socialize because building interpersonal relationships is very important. At first, I was so impatient with this because I was used to eating, instantly receiving the check, and leaving. Now that I understand the meaning behind it, it makes so much sense to me and I actually think our restaurant process is very backwards.
How did your life goals change?
I have decided that I would definitely like to travel more. I really enjoyed immersing myself in another culture so I would love to go back to Spain and travel to other countries like Italy, France, or Germany as well.
What was my favorite experience?
My favorite experience was attending a preliminary EuroCup game when Spain played China. Since I play soccer, I was really excited to attend the game and was surprised when everyone in my program wanted to attend. The atmosphere was so exhilarating and you couldn’t help but have fun. After that, we watched all of the EuroCup games together and it brought us all closer which was really beneficial.
I also really enjoyed the bike tour that we went on. I was really nervous going into because I never really learned how to ride a bike. However, everyone was really patient with me and now I can say that I learned how to ride a bike in Spain! Plus, the tour was amazing and we got to see most of the landmarks in Sevilla in a short period of time.
Any advice for future participants?
I would make sure you really research everything before traveling, whether it be about different programs or the country you’re traveling to. That way, you ensure you get exactly what you want out of your experience and you have an idea of what to expect. Also, it’s extremely important to go into the experience with an open mind. It will make it so much more enjoyable and you will learn more. Instead of thinking, “It’s weird that they do this” think, “they do this because of this.”
Would you study abroad again? Why?
If I had the money, I would choose to study abroad again in a heartbeat. It was, by far, the most rewarding experience of my life. I learned a lot about myself and other cultures. It makes you think of the world in a different perspective. I am much more open-minded and laid back. I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.