I am happy (and sad of course) to say that today is officially my half way to home point. I have been in Spain for just over two months and I’ll be home in about two months. I have conflicted feelings because of course I miss my friends and family, but I know I will miss Spain incredibly when I leave. I know this second half will go even faster then the first half because I’ll be doing a lot of traveling around Europe and I’ll be really busy with school when I am in Spain. Since this is my halfway point, I thought I would reflect on what being in Spain has taught me, and also what being away from the United States has taught me.
Firstly, I have learned so many lessons in Spain it’s hard to quantify them. I think most importantly I have learned self confidence and independent. For those of you who know me in person you know that I have always been independent and never been afraid to express myself, but this study abroad has solidified that even more in me. I have gained an immense amount of confidence in my Spanish speaking skills and I trust myself to be able to do what I want, when I want without relying on someone to help me. It is an incredibly empowering feeling and I’m proud of myself for being here and living without feeling lost or helpless.
I have also gained self confidence with meeting new people and making new relationships. I knew only a couple of people who came to Spain in my group so I was for the most part on my own. Since I have been here I have made many friends and formed relationships which I know will go past this experience. Not only have I met and gotten to know other Americans, but also people from all over the world. My classes are filled with students from all over the world and different cultures. It’s so nice to be able to get to know people from a completely different background from yourself. I love learning about people different than me, which is why I am an international studies major. This experience allows me to get out of the classroom and communicate with others in real-life experiences. This trip allows me to see things and do things that I could never experience in the United States. I am inspired to take another foreign language. I am thinking about French or Arabic, which is very exciting to think about.
Another important lesson I am learning is money management. I have obviously been in charge of my own finances for a long time and learned to manage them, but this is a little different. While in Spain, the American students only have student visas and are not allowed to work. So basically we are
constantly spending money without bringing in any income. I have to plan out my expenses very preciously so I don’t end up broke before I go home. This especially becomes important when planning trips like spring break. I have to buy flights, bus or train tickets, book places to stay, and plan for buying food and gifts while I’m there. If you can’t handle your money and know how much you have available at all times it’s going to be very difficult to have a good time on your trip. Being an accounting major I am taking money management very seriously and trying to learn everything I can about managing my money while away from home. So far I think I am doing a great job, well at least I’m not broke yet.
Being away from the United States has taught me many lessons as well. I have learned to appreciate my privacy. I am literally never alone while in Spain. I am always with my
roommate and host family, at school, or walking around a street filled with people. There is almost no way for me to get away from people, which I don’t mind, but I will be happy to have some privacy again in the United States. I have also learned to appreciate being in control of what I eat and when I eat. In Spain I eat whatever my host mom makes, which is usually pretty good, but I just miss being able to exactly choose what I’m going to eat. I am happy my host mom respects that I am a vegetarian and makes food without meat for me but I don’t really care for how much oil then use in their cooking. Overall it’s OK, but I’ll be happy when I am home and able to cook again. Being away from the U.S. has taught me that I don’t need all of my material possessions. I am happy to see that I am getting along fine without my entire wardrobe and all my crap that I just don’t need.
Like I said, I am learning countless lesson from this experience and I know that I have many more lessons coming my way. This coming week I have the rest of my exams and then preparing for spring break. I’ll try and get another post in before a leave on spring break. Have a good week everyone!: )
Alexia Szabo, a junior majoring in accounting, Spanish and international studies at UW-Stevens Point, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Spain.