A month ago, I packed all my belongings into 2 suitcases, said my goodbyes, and headed to the airport in Oviedo. Feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and accomplishment flooded my entire mind. The journey back to Jamaica had me thinking and reflecting on the past 4 months I had spent in Spain. It definitely was not an easy one. Many days, I wanted to just give up and come back home. Other days, I was happy to have had the opportunity to experience a different culture. Most of all, I can say I have learned a lot about myself, other people, the Spanish culture, and of course, the language. The Lauren who wrote her pre-departure blog on January 13th is not the same Lauren sitting on her couch pondering what to write about.
First, let me say, I LOVE Jamaica. Like every other country, we do have our struggles with crime and violence, but that’s my home and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My study abroad experience gave me a greater appreciation for my home and even for Rollins, my home away from home. To live 35 minutes away from the beach, to have my family and friends close by, and to receive a top-notch education in the sunshine state is truly a blessing. Now, this does not mean I didn’t like Oviedo- but ya know, sometimes we have to be away from something to truly appreciate it.
When I reflect on my experience abroad, I feel immense gratitude to be able to have made friendships with people from all over the world. I bonded with a German girl as we were both lost and late to the first day of class, running in the rain and crying our eyes out. I met my soul sister sitting in class, completely confused by what the professor was saying. My conversation partner brightened my day with our frequent coffee dates, and Regan and I had our laughs as we often thought what on earth we were doing in Northern Spain. I won’t lie to you, studying abroad may not always be easy. You may feel homesickness, you might want to just speak your native language, and you WILL crave a delicious home-cooked meal. But take my advice and LEARN FROM EVERYTHING. Learn from the good times and the bad times. Be open to meeting new people. Make mistakes, tons of them and mostly, embrace every moment of every day.
If you are thinking of studying abroad, regretting your decision to do it or maybe you’re there right now trying to find comfort in other students’ blog posts… I know how you’re feeling. If I could go back in time, I would learn to be more optimistic. To turn those negatives into positives and just enjoy it. This opportunity won’t ever come around again. So Spain, thank you for the rainy days, the anxiety, the tears, and the adventure. I am that much better because I did it afraid.