Never did I think this time would actually come. The time where I would be reflecting on my abroad experience as if it were something in the past. I’m about 10 days out from my departure from Spain, and I have the most mixed emotions about leaving.
People always tell you how much you will change after an abroad experience or how much you will learn in such a short period of time. I really thought that was a bunch of crap just to get you to go abroad in the first place….but boy was I wrong. This is probably the first time I am thinking back on what I have learned and how I have changed and its pretty overwhelming to think about. I can honestly say that I am a completely different person than I was coming into this program. It scary to think about really; how much just 4 months can change a person’s life. Being abroad is something that almost can’t be explained…it has to be lived. There are things that you go through while being abroad that you could never learn in a classroom or face being in the United States.
Am I sad to leave? Absolutely. Am I excited to go home? Absolutely. It is really a toss-up for me with my opinions about leaving in 10 days. It really seems like I blinked and four months passed without me realizing it. When I look back at pictures from the beginning weeks of the program, it seems like a dream. If I didn’t have pictures of it, I don’t know if I would have believed it happened. It’s the weirdest phenomenon. It will be just as strange arriving back home because life goes on without you while you were gone. I had this vision in my head that everything would be the same when I returned home and it will pick up right where I left it. Just as your life has changed in four months, so can everyone else’s back home. I am eager to see the changes but also a little sad that I was absent for certain things. I know that I am going to miss Barcelona more than I can ever write about when I return home, but someday, I hope to come back and relive some of the memories I have made while here.
How have I changed you ask? I can’t even fully answer that question. It is a funny thing to ponder because you never realize you are changing as a person. The only way to see it, is to look back at yourself from the beginning of the program and see how you handled certain things versus what you do now. I can say that I have changed in terms of bigger picture living. Before this program, I cared way too much about little insignificant things. Now I look back and laugh at how naïve I was. I’ve learned to keep in touch with the people that truly matter in my life and let go the ones that I don’t need. I’ve learned that experiences are much more valuable than material items and that budgeting is a REAL thing. I have learned to be independent, and do things on my own. There is nothing scarier than being lost in a foreign place, but it is also the most rewarding experience. I’ve learned to trust strangers, because when you are halfway around the world and don’t have anyone else, they are the ones who you rely on. I have learned not to stereotype or judge. Everyone goes on their own journey in their own time and people who waste their time judging others really reaffirms that they are not confident with themselves. I’ve learned to make mistakes, but learn from them to ensure I won’t do them again. I’ve learned that I can gain so much happiness with giving back to the community by volunteering with children. The list can go on and on, but those are the big ones.
Being abroad and traveling around Europe outside of Spain really concretes my vision of working internationally in the future. I knew that I wanted to work globally before coming into this, but now more than ever, I am seeking out my next opportunity to volunteer/intern/ or work abroad. I have been making a list throughout the semester on things I can add to my resume from experiences abroad and I could probably have a full resume just based off of four months being here. The difference is the application of your education in real life rather than just in books or papers. I have learned so much for my career in just being present in an art world in Barcelona. Its like your brain absorbs information when you don’t even try to, just because you are living your education and applying your knowledge in real life situations.
I think the wanderlust mentality is what I will most strongly carry back to the United States with me. My need for adventure and new experiences is what will drive my life upon my return. I really have been more interested in exploring more of the United States when I get back and really learn more about my own culture. I also will continue to try new foods, and appreciate the little things that occur in my life.
It’s hard to sum up this experience with final thoughts, but I plan to continue to preach to everyone and anyone about how awesome of an experience this is. I’m going to have to agree with all the cliché people that say studying abroad will change your life because they are absolutely right. I hope that someday, we can live in a world where traveling and studying in foreign countries is more accessible to a larger population so that everybody can have this unexplainable experience.
Bailey is a current student at St. Cloud State University studying at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona in Spain during the Spring 2015 term.