Study Abroad: Expectation vs Reality

Before I departed on my study abroad experience, I thought I would be travelling every free weekend that I had. But, the truth is that travelling can be very exhausting and obviously, can be very expensive for a college student on a tight budget. Also, I didn’t realize how much I would love living in Valencia, so while travelling and seeing new places in the world is amazing, staying in Valencia for some weekends is much cheaper and is still very fun. In fact, there are still so many things that I haven’t done yet in Valencia and I’ve been here for almost two months already.

Before coming to Spain, I knew I would make some new friends while I was here, but I didn’t realize how close I would become with so many new people. I’m beginning to realize how difficult it is going to be when we all have to leave because my new friends are from all over the world, meaning after this semester it is going to be very hard to keep in touch and visit one another. However, even if we don’t visit each other often, I know I have some friends for life and I know if I ever travel to their part of the country or world, I know I’ll have a place to stay.

Academically, my study abroad experience has been pretty much how I expected it to be. While it has still been a rigorous college course load, I haven’t been buried in work to the point where I haven’t been able to travel or enjoy myself in Valencia. What I’ve enjoyed the most about my academic experience thus far is that most of my courses apply the material we learn to Spanish culture and way of life. For example, in my Humanities course, we have visited Spanish museums and studied Spanish music. This gives us students the opportunity to learn more about the culture of the place we are living while learning the course material.

I didn’t know what kind of expectations I had for myself personally before leaving for this study abroad experience. I knew that I would be forced to step outside of my comfort zone and try new things, and that hopefully I would gain some sort of broader understanding of different cultures and ways of life. What I didn’t know is what I would gain by seeing these different cultures. What I have learned so far is that while America is in many ways ahead of European countries, there are also many ways that these countries of Europe are ahead of us. I have also become more appreciative of the things that we take for granted in the United States, because there are many places where the people don’t have the same luxuries as we do back in the States.

Before leaving for Spain, I had been warned a lot about “Anti-Americanism.” While I have experienced this a few times during my time here, for the most part, the people here have been extremely friendly and welcoming of me and other Americans, even though some of us, like me, haven’t perfected Spanish yet, and it can be difficult at times to talk to the locals here. I would say for sure that the Spanish population are much more helpful and understanding of people who don’t know Spanish very well, than Americans are of people who don’t know English, which has allowed me to interact with the Spanish population in a relaxed manner, knowing that I won’t be judged if my Spanish is not perfect.