The Study Abroad Adventure: When Reality Hits…

I am sure you just read that headline and immediately thought, “But, you’re in Spain? What could possibly be wrong? People would do anything to be in your shoes.” While everything in that statement is one hundred percent correct, I promised you all at the beginning of this journey that I would be honest with my posts. So here it goes:

Studying abroad is hard.

Plain and simple. Before you exit this page, I encourage you to stay with me until the end.  If you disagree with me even after finishing, then that is your opinion and I respect that.

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The Truth About Studying on the Other Side of the World

From the outside, studying abroad looks like a summer that is just carefree and full of adventure.  While my summer has been fairly laid back and definitely full of adventure, there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. We live in a world where we refuse to promote the bad stuff. We want people to think that our lives are perfect, even if they are not. That is why I am writing this post. Contrary to popular belief, studying abroad has not always been rainbows and butterflies as my Instagram or blog posts may have led you to believe. It is hard to publicly  share hardships, especially because this is such an amazing opportunity. Regardless, I made a promise to you all and I am a woman of my word. Here are the three hardest things about studying abroad:

1. You are so incredibly far away from the people you love

I cannot tell you how many times in the past month I have texted or Facetimed my mom simply because I wanted to talk to see a familiar face or hear a familiar voice. When you choose to study abroad, you choose the possibility of being completely and utterly alone. While I am technically in a group this summer, it still is a very independent experience. We all know each other’s names, but everyone is trying to take in every moment and unfortunately, that does not involve actually getting to know someone.

2. You find yourself on a constant emotional roller-coaster

While I was writing in my journal last week, I found myself flip-flopping through different emotions. Sometimes I get frustrated with myself, because being in Spain is a once in a lifetime opportunity. When any negative emotions come to the surface, I feel guilty because I want to remember this trip as the greatest adventure of my life. The reality is every emotion will be felt at some point in time while studying abroad. In my journal I wrote, “Studying abroad is hard. The reward is great but there is a lot more physical, emotional, and mental effort that you are unaware of prior to getting on the plane.”

3. The workload is overwhelming…

The second week of classes I already had an exam in my Art History class. For the exam, we had to be able to state the name, author, style, century, location, as well as, describe everything you remember about the work — entirely in Spanish– simply by looking at the photo he put on the projector. Overwhelmed was an understatement. There are days when I feel as though I am understanding everything that my professors are saying. There are other days, when I question if I know Spanish at all.

The Good News

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This is normal.

Every other student has been or currently is in your shoes. As you were reading these, I am sure you could not help but wonder if the I am actually enjoying myself over here.  My response:  I would not trade this experience for the world. I chose to come on this journey so that I would learn. Every day has been filled with lessons that will forever impact how I choose to live my life. So yes, it is hard, but my friend, it is so worthwhile. Here is my advice that corresponds with each hardship.

1. The people you love are closer than you think

We live in a world where we can hear from the people we love with the touch of a button. While I know it is not the same as physically having people in front of you, take advantage of the technology to see your friends and family in real time. As far as having friends where you are, take each day as it comes. If someone in your program or class invites you to do something, do it. You never know if you will like it unless you try.

2. Embrace every emotion

Cry when you need to cry. Be mad when you need to be mad. Jump for joy when something exciting happens. Take each emotion as it comes. It would be insane to think that your life at any moment in time is always happy. Sadness will creep in, anger will ensue, fear will paralyze you, but these moments will pass. Just take a deep breath, let the emotion take its course, and move on to enjoy the beauty that is right in front of you.

3. The workload is overwhelming… at first, but I promise you will get the hang of it in no time!

I will not deny that your classes will be harder than you anticipated. Fortunately, just like any other class you have taken, you will fall into a rhythm and get things done. Every class I have taken, stateside or abroad, I have always felt like I will never make it through. My thoughts often go along of the lines of: the teacher is too mean,the content is too hard, the grading is too intense. The good news, I am almost always proven wrong. Sometimes the most challenging classes are the classes where I learn the most.

My friend, you will get through this hardship. Keep you head up and lift high the load (as Phil Collins would sing). You will make it through this low point. Remember to enjoy the journey.

Weekly Adventures

As promised, here is a video of how I have to get to my business class. I was not kidding when I said each day was an adventure.

walk to class

Alright, on a serious note I have done a lot of traveling since my last blog post.

I explored the beautiful (but incredibly hot) cities of Sevilla and Cordoba, made my way downtown to the local fair, and had a brief voyage to Lagos, Portugal. I will do my best to describe each picture. I hope you all enjoy!

La Feria

La Feria

(They were so excited I asked to take a picture with them!)

Sevilla

Plaza de Espana

Plaza de Espana

Aqueduct in Palacio de Alcazara

Aqueduct at Palacio de Alcazar

Sevilla

Guadalquivir River, Sevilla

Córdoba

Cordoba

Entrance to the City

La Mezquita

Entrance to La Mezquita

La Mezquita y Catedral

Fun Fact: When the Moors were in Spain, they built a beautiful grand mosque which can be seen with the red and white arcs to the left. When the Christians conquered Cordoba, they just expanded upon the mosque. Depending on where you are in the building, you can see what time period it was built. Each person of power just kept expanding upon the same building.

Lagos, Portugal

(This trip was not my favorite, but not because of the city. If you ever have a chance to see Lagos, GO! You will not be disappointed).

Sunset at "The Edge of the World"

Watching the sunset at what used to be called “The Edge of the World”

Sunset

Grottos and Caves

Thank you for staying with me until the end of this blog post. I hope you have enjoyed hearing about my journey so far.

-Emalyn

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