It was my seventh-grade writing development teacher who first exposed me to the phrase "study abroad."
Fresh out of college, she shared pictures of her study abroad experience in London, telling us how she walked along Abbey Road, helped hold her friend across the Prime Meridian, and ate an abundant amount of fish and chips. Even then, I knew I had the travel bug, and from that point on I was determined to cure it by studying abroad in college.
Flash forward 8 years, and here I am, a junior at Butler University just two months away from hopping on a flight to Barcelona, Spain. I couldn't be more ecstatic to start my journey as a world traveler, though for a short time earlier this year, I was highly conflicted about whether or not I should take the leap and apply for the IES Abroad program.
After all, as I'm sure most students can understand, it took me a while to become acquainted to college. When I moved away from home, I left all I knew — my family and friends, my established reputation, and my comfy bed — to start a new life as a university student. I finally found my place at school sophomore year, and it seemed crazy to my solid friend group, club involvement, and social activities behind for an entire semester. At the same time, studying abroad had always been my dream. How could I make this difficult decision?
After reading numerous articles online, seeking advice from previous study abroad students and my school's study abroad advisor, and writing many a pros-and-cons list, I became more confident than ever that I should study abroad. Cons like "missing my sorority formal" (I've already been to four of them) paled in comparison to an extensive list of pros that simply seeing down on paper caused my heart to leap in excitement at the journey ahead.
Here are four of the many reasons I confidently chose to spend a semester studying abroad.
1. I'll gain an understanding of another culture.
As a strategic communication and Spanish double major with an international business minor, my ideal post-graduate career will be one where I can travel. Though my classes teach me about the business environment in other countries, there's only so much I can learn about the world in a classroom setting. Studying abroad provides me the opportunity to immerse myself in another culture, learning about Spanish fashion, cuisine, sports, arts, architecture, and the day-to-day habits of Spanish citizens. I'm excited to gain real-world, firsthand experience with international publics.
2. I've never been to Europe before, and I may never get the opportunity again.
Up until now, I've used my passport three times: for a trip to the Bahamas, on a visit to Mexico, and on a cruise through the Caribbean. While these trips count as international travel, I've barely strayed away from North America. My little girl dreams of eating a croissant in Paris, visiting the Cavern Club in Liverpool, and floating along the Venice canals in a gondola have always been just that: dreams.
Now, I have the ability to live those dreams at a comparable price to a semester at college. I can earn credits toward graduation, meaning I'll stay on track to graduate on time with ease. Never again will I be able to spend such a significant amount of time away from home with such a low opportunity cost.
3. My foreign language skills will greatly improve.
In high school, I had friends, classmates, and coworkers who gracefully helped me improve my Spanish conversation skills. These conversations sparked my passion for the language, so I declared Spanish as a minor when I entered college and eventually bumped it up to a secondary major.
Still, like I mentioned previously, there's only so much I can learn in an American classroom about another language and culture. As part of my IES Abroad program, I'll be in an intensive Spanish course where I will spend seven hours per week improving my Spanish skills. Additionally, I'll have opportunities each day to speak Spanish to locals. At the same time, the majority of Barcelona residents speak English, so I can switch back to English and confidently and comfortably ask for help if absolutely needed.
I will feel so much more secure using my Spanish secondary major in a future career after I've cultivated these skills in Spain.
4. Studying abroad provides the perfect opportunity for self-discovery.
Woman studying abroad
Since entering college, I realized I am someone who values physical space to have headspace. Next year, I'll be a college senior, and it'll be time to pursue a career, find a place of permanent residence, and begin the rest of my life. Here at school, my judgement is clouded by my day-to-day tasks and frustrations, so I haven't been able to truly sit down and evaluate what I want in life. Leaving these to-dos behind will allow me to learn more about myself and the world, and I am confident I will have a better idea of what I want my future to hold as a result.
Though I'll miss my family and friends while I'm gone, I know they'll be a FaceTime call away and ready to welcome me home with open arms when I return. Each day, the reasons listed above make me even more excited to embark on this adventure, and I can't wait to see what surprises Spain has in store for me that I have yet to anticipate.