For my junior year of high school, I was fortunate to spend the year on foreign exchange in Madrid, Spain. It was an incredible learning experience and the most amazing year of my life, thus far. During my time in Spain I learned some incredible life lessons; here are a few of the most valuable ones.
1. Don't pretend you know something that you actually don't
I learned this lesson through the language barrier that is Spanish and English. Entering exchange I knew only a small amount of Spanish, even though I had taken it for 2 years at a high school level and throughout grade school. When I first arrived I decided it would be better to act like I knew what people were saying in Spanish versus just telling them I didn't. To do this I would just simply use the words (in Spanish,) "yes," "no," and "very good". Through this, I learned that only 50% of things can be answered with these three words, and the rest of the time an answer to these words did not make sense.
Moral of the story, don't pretend you know something that you actually don't.
2. Go out of your comfort zone
This is one of the best lessons I learned while in Spain. Jumping out of your comfort zone isn't always easy, but it's so rewarding. You learn something new about yourself every time you jump out of it. It also allows you to do things that you wouldn't regularly do, which usually leads to some pretty amazing experiences.
3. Don't be afraid to ask questions
Growing up my Dad used to always tell my sister and I that asking questions was the smartest thing you could do. Living in Spain really taught me this lesson, because when you ask questions you learn so much more than you would if not asking the question. People also respect you more when you ask questions. It shows you're listening to them, respect what they're talking about, and want to learn more.
4. Who you surround yourself with greatly impacts your life experiences and the person you become
The best lesson I learned in Spain was about the people with whom you surround yourself. Those people either make or break your experiences, and change you as a person. If you surround yourself with people filled with light, and who really want to spread love and do amazing things, you are going to have the most incredible experiences, compared to if you were spending time with people who do nothing for you, even if that may sound harsh.
So there it is, four lessons I learned while on foreign exchange in Spain. The best experiences in life are the ones from which you learn the most, and grow more as a person, which is truly what foreign exchange was to me.