You’ve probably seen all the flyers, the articles, and the ads for studying abroad. You may have even complained about those people who talk non-stop about their experiences abroad. Well, I have to confess that it will not stop. Once you study abroad, life becomes more exciting, and speaking about it is the only way to travel back. However, there is a reason to all this madness; otherwise, I would not be writing this to annoy you even more.
Studying abroad is a life changing experience. While studying abroad in Granada, Spain, I realized something: there is a difference between vacationing and actually living somewhere. When visiting a country for vacation, you do not get to experience the culture, the places, and the people. A majority of vacation time is spent visiting the touristy places and ordering food similar to our own. While living in Granada for almost five months, I immersed myself in the culture, so that by the end of the experience, I felt I was part of the Spanish culture. Besides the touristy places, I visited the local area and met local people. I spoke Spanish 24/7 with my host mom and I ate authentic Spanish food which was a huge plus. Most importantly, I had the opportunity to understand another country’s government, social problems, and traditions.
Why is this important? Learning to understand and interact with a different culture helps us to work better in a diverse environment. The ability to speak a different language helps you to become more aware of the world. In other words, you will become worldly and more marketable.
Embracing differences is rarely negative; in fact, it often strengthens and broadens our knowledge and skills. Another positive about studying abroad is that it teaches you to appreciate other cultures. I always knew I wanted to study abroad. Learning about other cultures always fascinated me. When I went to Spain, I was open to experience something different than my own. In fact, while in Granada, I participated in the University theater group, I volunteered in a senior center, I took flamenco classes, and on top of that, I was a full-time student at the university. The result: the best experience of my life so far.
Studying abroad will ultimately enrich you with adventures and a great sense of independence. One thing I discovered in my journey abroad was my identity. There were many times when I reflected about my life, my goals, and where I was heading. I am clearer on where I want to go now. It was a journey full of surprises, challenges, and happiness.
Do not be afraid of the unknown. Go to the Study Abroad Office and learn more about what they offer. Search programs and talk to your relatives. Who knows, next year you might be on a plane going abroad for an amazing journey!
Liliana Peralta-Zapata, class of 2014, is a public relations major with a double minor in theatre and Hispanic studies from the Bronx, New York.