Study Abroad: Worth Every Penny

I remember sitting in the International Studies office (or whatever official name they called it) with brochures spread out across the wooden circular table before me.  Despite the endless amount of programs for an endless amount of countries, they all seemed to say the same things.

EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME!

UNFORGETTABLE ADVENTURE!

FRIENDS FOR LIFE!

I looked at posters and brochures like this…

Typical Study Abroad advert

…for hours…and thought yeah right.  I thought they were exaggerating because, well, I rarely trust any company who is trying to convince me to spend that much money on something.  However, I figured it might not be as good as all that, but at least I’ll finally stop dreaming of traveling abroad and finally just do it.  And it ended up being one of the few times that I could say that it was not in any way false advertising.

I studied in Sevilla, Spain for one semester in 2002 with International Studies Abroad (ISA) and it was the best decision I ever made.  I know sometimes when talking about a product I really like I can sound like an infomercial, but I assure you no one is paying me to say this and I don’t work for any study abroad programs.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!  If you call in the next 5 minutes, you can get two semesters abroad for the price of one!

Just kidding.

Anywho…I won’t go into crazy details about everything that we did, but I will tell you four important things that happened.

1)  I became quite attached to my host mother.  It was just me and her and I was the first student she hosted, so we had a special connection and I still keep in touch with her today.

2)  Due to the makeup of my particular group of friends plus the fact that my host mother only knew two words in English, my Spanish level went from advanced textbook to actual conversational fluidity.

3)  I became a fan of a couple of the Spanish singers that are still some of my favorites today.  Plus many other odd cultural things I picked up on because I didn’t just visit, I LIVED there.

4)  I truly did make friends of a lifetime.  I move around a lot and friends come in and out of my life, but the close group of people we hung out with while in Spain are still my friends today.  During those 4 months we laughed together, cried together, got annoyed or frustrated with each other…you get the idea.  Since then our visits have been few and far between because we have all been busy traveling to other countries, but when a couple of us do get together, it’s as if no time has passed.  There is so much love and appreciation for this type of friend because you all experienced something great together and something that had its difficulties (namely in the form of culture shock) and that kind of bond is strong in a way that most people can’t understand.  When I started to develop all of my pictures (this was 2002 and I didn’t have a digital camera yet) I realized that I had quite a few pictures that resembled the ones I had seen in those brochures.  My most resembling ‘brochure pic’ isn’t scanned into my computer, but here’s another one of them…

Inside a bull ring in Ronda, Spain

I’m telling you this not to brag about my experience, but to encourage any college students out there reading this to study abroad.  I can’t express in enough words in either language how much it teaches you about yourself, about where you come from and what you are capable of.  I had to take out a big loan to pay for it all, but it’s the only student loan that I don’t mind paying at all because I wouldn’t be who I am today without that experience.  I also wouldn’t have had the courage to move to Asia 8 years later had I not already lived abroad once before.  Once you know you can handle culture shock in another country, you feel like you can take on the world.

I bring all of this up today because one of my closest friends from that semester is coming to visit me next week and every time I talk to her, I am reminded of how great that experience was.  The fact that we do still plan mini reunions together after 9 years (despite that fact that none of us came from the same US cities nor universities) shows you how strong our friendships became.  You can’t put a price on good friendship like that.  It’s worth every penny.

If you are thinking about study abroad but not sure, feel free to bounce your ideas off me, I’m happy to help.  Pick a program.  Go somewhere.  See the world.  Because there is so much that they don’t teach us in school.

And just because I felt like we needed more pics here…this one’s for all the Don Quixote lovers out there:

Las Molinas

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 1cruzdelsur
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 23:32:20

    El escritor Pablo Coelho, escribió: Es justamente la posibilidad de realizar un sueño lo que hace que la vida sea interesante.
    Importante fue tu decisión apostaste al futuro, aunque para ello debiste invertir algo de dinero, pero que bien gastado…, te felicito…
    Saludos para ti.
    C.

    Reply

  2. Tracy
    Aug 23, 2011 @ 20:38:08

    I totally agree with you. I wish there was a college that was four years of living abroad in different countries. I would have gotten a lot more out of that system! It truly makes you a better person.

    Reply

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