Studying abroad has been an experience I will never forget, I wonder why I was afraid to even embark on this life changing journey. When it comes to studying abroad certain students study abroad to escape the old and immerse their self in something new and grow as a new person.
I chose to study abroad because of I was one of those kids looking for something new to immerse myself in. I specifically chose Spain because I am a Spanish minor and I felt that having a deeper understanding of the language and culture I study would help me realize a lot. Fortunately during my time here it did.
Unfortunately, there are some students who just come abroad and exist in their country rather than living in it. At first I saw myself doing this, but I immediately changed my mindset and my way of thinking. I wanted to finish my abroad experience by saying, “Yes I lived in Spain” rather than ” Yea I studied abroad in Spain.”
Slimbach says, “American students abroad may not have stars-and-stripes patches sewn onto their backpack, or see themselves as having much in common with their “tourist” counterparts … But neither are they eager to relinquish many of the comfortable amenities and social networks of home” (35). This quote describes a lot of Students I have met so far in my abroad. They refuse to get comfortable with the uncomfortable and truly understand the culture in the country they are living in, well in their case “existing” in.
Social media has tainted the good name of what studying abroad truly used to be. For example, when I told people I was studying abroad in Barcelona, I was told ” Oh why are you going there? To party?,” ” They barely speak Spanish there.” Yes I understood that Barcelona is known for their nightlife, but I went there for other reasons. I was prejudged before I was even asked, “Oh really? Why Barcelona.” Then I realized the media shows study abroad students as people who pose for photos on Instagram and go to tourist spots for the picture rather than taking in the experience in front of them.
Although I have studied Spanish for a while I still do have difficulty when a native speaks to fast or when I am in my Spanish history class that is taught in Spanish. Until this day, I am not sure what I got myself into but I am loving it because it is forcing me to learn and adapt to the native language of my host country. I have encountered people who don’t even try to assimilate with the language although they are in the required course . I often hear, ” This is dumb why do I need to know this.” In my head I cannot help but think of what a waste their experience is going to be at the end when they leave Spain and can barely speak the language because the refuse to assimilate. I try to speak Spanish whenever I can because I made it a goal to improve my grammar while I was here. I made friends with one of the ladies at the ” paneria” and she always corrects me when I use an article wrong, which I more than appreciate. Even when it comes to nightlife in Barcelona i have strayed away from the “study abroad” type of clubs and have been going to more local clubs and even made some amazing friends.
As study abroad student we have the opportunity to be Prime example for what the experience should be like, and bring back the true meaning to the phrase used amongst many colleges “study abroad.” Truly immersing yourself in your surroundings is key whether it is taking a walk to the local market, or eating at a pizza place with a bunch of locals. I am trying my hardest to help break the stereotype and encourage others around me to come out to clubs that locals go to.