Studying abroad has been one of the best opportunities that I have been able to experience in college! It was one of my goals for my college career. And I am grateful that Marymount has such an amazing study abroad office that helped me get here. Going to a new country to spend a semester learning is filled both opportunities and challenges. I get to learn about another place while fully immersed in the culture. I get an opportunity to further develop my understanding of a language. And I also get to meet new people and discover new adventures. However, studying abroad does not come without its own set of challenges.
My very first challenge was trying to get here, the journey, which you can read about in my first blog, The Unpredictability of Travel. After arriving, the challenge was adjusting to a new schedule in a different country. It took a couple of days but I was not the only one going through it. Every student in my program was adjusting and getting to know the place we were going to call home for four months. Thankfully, I adapted well, found my routine, and began to enjoy my time here.
Another challenge is trying to find the balance between school and sightseeing/ traveling. Because we are in a fairly easy to travel country, going somewhere for the weekend is the norm. However, it comes at the cost of school and money. I found that I really wanted to explore Spain and Barcelona. I spend most of my weekends doing day trips and learning the little things about the city I live in. I also then have enough time to finish schoolwork and study without out feeling too overwhelmed or stressed out.
Being in a country with different languages has also been a learning curve. I was fully prepared to hear Spanish and see it everywhere; however, I happened to forget that Barcelona is located in Catalonia, where the language spoke is Catalán. That was my largest challenge for when I first arrived. The government in Catalonia states that all public street signs must be in Catalán, so navigating around the city became a little more challenging. Thankfully, most street signs and public transportation signage have both Catalán and Spanish (occasionally English) so eventually I got the hang of it.
The most recent challenge has been navigating preparations for next semester at Marymount while being abroad. Not being on campus when trying to navigate things like class scheduling, interviews for jobs, and applying for housing can be especially challenging. Most of the challenge lies in the time difference of six hours, which greatly impacts when I can schedule meetings and others things like email responses. I could do something in my time and have to wait until the next day for answers.
Despite all of these challenges, I would still choose to study abroad! The challenges that I have faced are what make my study abroad time memorable. I am only able to grow if I am challenged. Without the challenges, I would still have an enjoyable time, but the amount of self-growth would not have been as much as it is now. I am only halfway through my semester and I am sure that I will have many more challenges coming my way. I look towards them with the confidence that I can take them on and come out stronger and better from them. Studying abroad is an experience that will last a lifetime and I am grateful to have come to such a wonderful place and beautiful place!