During my junior year of high school, you could find me doing one of three things—studying, playing volleyball after school, or visiting college campuses with my mom trying to figure out where I wanted to be during those four amazing years of college.
Being the prepared student that I am and always have been, I had my three go-to questions I always whipped out for our guides. One, what has been your favorite and least favorite about being a student here? Two, what activities have you been involved with as a student? Three, what are the study abroad opportunities like at this university?
Studying abroad has always been on my mind and when I finally saw my chance to go on one, I jumped at this opportunity. My study abroad program is unique in the sense that it was only, unfortunately, one month long, or what we like to call a "Maymester" since it happens during the month of May.
This Maymester studying abroad in Pamplona, Spain has been everything that I expected but at the same time much, much more than I ever could have planned for. When we are given opportunities in life, we must take them and see where the ride takes us. If you are considering doing a study abroad program, don't be afraid to take that little leap of faith. It is worth more than you ever could have imagined possible.
1. You start to feel less like a tourist and more like a local.
This is very difficult when you take a one or two-week vacation to a foreign country. You are most likely staying at a hotel of some sort and doing all those "touristy" things you Googled after you bought your plane ticket. Studying abroad gives you the opportunity to stay with a host family, in a university housing, or some other housing that will give you a cultural experience of living among the locals. After exploring the city and getting settled in, you become accustomed to the way of life and will tell yourself, "I think I could live here one day."
2. You have so much more time to explore the city and country.
I have been fortunate enough to have already traveled outside of the country and visit foreign places, but I have not been away for one month. My professor did an excellent job of designing the trip so we can hit all the main sights and beautiful cities throughout the Maymester while also just staying in town and enjoying dinner among the locals. You can actually relax and take your time without having to constantly look at your watch trying to get from place to place.
3. You foster connections with the faculty and students on your study abroad and also at the university you are studying at.
After lunch every day, people in Spain like to partake in what is called "sobremesa." Instead of eating, talking, and then leaving restaurants, the people in my group will enjoy each other's' company over a cup of hot café con leche after our three-course meal. All study abroad programs are not created equal, but there are many out there that will let you enjoy your meals like the locals do and foster connections between students and faculty on your trip. Man, I sure will miss our sobremesas.
4. You will have an indescribable cultural experience unlike anything possible after graduation.
Once you become an adult, that's game over. Of course, you can still travel whenever you have time, but that's the key…"whenever you have time." The cycle for most of us is that we go to school, we graduate, we get a job, and we work. Every single week, we work. Vacation days for traveling will become difficult to schedule around your travel partners. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have this unique of being in a foreign country for such an extensive period.
5. It's fun, gosh darn it!
Think of the coolest thing you have ever done in your life and it is even cooler than that! It's so cool, that when your friends and family ask you how you're doing over in *insert country here*, you can't even begin to scratch the surface to describe your emotions and day-to-day experiences. If you're worried about juggling classes in a foreign country because classes are hard enough in the U.S., don't be. That is obviously easier said than done, but it is a leap of faith that ultimately teaches you lessons you never knew you needed to be taught and feel emotions you have never felt before.