January 28, 2020
People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. – Anonymous
Tomorrow marks the first day of a new semester, but this feels more like an end than a rebirth. Friends who were only here for a semester have returned to their home countries, while a couple of my friendships formed during the first semester have sadly faded away. I have had to readjust my expectations for people that I thought would be friends for life. People who were once my lifeline.
When I look back at my study abroad experience, I probably won’t remember exactly what grades I received, nor will I remember the hours I spent hunched over exam prep material. What will stick to my memory is the friends that I made and the life-changing experiences that I’ve had.
However, change is one of the only constants we have in life and study abroad is no different. In a way, I felt invincible to change before. Moving continents and exploring a new life in Europe was a way of escaping the often mundaneness of my life back in Canada.
As scared as I was to embark on the journey, I was convinced that I was moving on to bigger and better things. The food would be better, the people would be better, the weather would be better. Everything would just be better. And unfortunately–while I’ve loved the experience of studying abroad–there have been just as many ups as there have been downs. The same difficulties that I would’ve had to manage in some form, at home.
I had sort of idolized Spain in my mind and built it up to a place where I would make lasting friendships and develop strong bonds with amazing people. And while this has happened thankfully, I’ve also been made painfully aware of the difficulty that it takes to overcome language barriers with native speakers of a language to which you are non-native.
It pops up in the way that native Spanish speakers get so wrapped up in conversations amongst themselves that they forget to engage with the foreigners in the room. Or the way that Spanish humor sometimes flies over my head and I’m unable to catch subtle nuances in language and context.
While there are times that I’ve felt very at home during my study abroad experience, this day and this week have not been one of them. And I think it’s okay to acknowledge that. It’s okay to acknowledge that everything hasn’t been roses and cookie dough, yes, even on an international exchange in Europe.
Life is life, and sometimes circumstances can be disappointing. But even if that fact is all that studying abroad has taught me, it will have been a valuable experience nonetheless.