Coming Full Circle: Returning From Studying Abroad

I believe that if a student ever has the chance to study abroad, it is a precious opportunity that cannot be taken for granted. As we are in a new decade, it is important to realize that our society is on the tipping point between order and chaos. Every day, people being hurt by global crises such as climate change, political corruption, and violence. It pains me to read how the world seems to become more and more dangerous as time passes. For me, having the chance to study abroad has allowed me to experience life in a different country but has also inspired me to accomplish more goals both at Bates and beyond.

This past fall semester I had the great pleasure of studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. During that time, I felt that I grew not only as a student but also as a person. Before I traveled to Spain, I had many reservations about going to a different country. During my sophomore year at Bates, I endured a lot of difficult challenges, both academically and emotionally. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great year and I felt as though Bates wasn’t the right place for me. I believed that my sophomore year was filled with a lot of stress, pain, and pessimism. When I realized that I was going abroad, one of my main goals was to improve my overall outlook on life and be more positive. Additionally, one of my few reservations about going to Spain was whether or not I was going to meet like-minded people and make friends. Especially last year at Bates, I found it difficult to maintain the friendships that I made during my freshman year and create new friends as well. However, I was relieved to find out that my reservations were just mere misconceptions about study abroad.

For me, Madrid, Spain was not only a great place to study abroad it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. While some may think it may be cliché to study abroad in

Spain because I major in Spanish, for me, it was much more than simply speaking and learning another language. Traveling to Spain was a wonderful opportunity for me because I had the chance to do something that I never was able to be at Bates last year: being happy and enjoying my surroundings. Whether it was taking classes, or going out to dinner, or traveling to a historical site, there was always something new to experience in Spain. Additionally, one of the many ways that Spain surprised me was how hospitable and generous the people were.

While I was abroad, I lived in a dorm with other Spanish-speaking students and I was able to connect with many of them in a profound and amicable way. Now as I am here and back at Bates it is hard not to miss Spain. The warmth, the excitement, and the diversity of Spain has allowed me to develop a new mindset of the world and society. In Spain, I met people who had suffered greatly from economic hardship and political corruption. Similarly to the United States, many people in Spain are angered by the social imbalance in the country. It was emotional to hear the stories of those who were affected by the country’s historical economic crisis in 2008. I felt as I was engaging in those conversations, I was able to learn not only more about the culture in Spain but also people’s lives as well. More importantly, I was able to converse with people on a personal and emotional level which was a humbling and heartwarming experience.

Study abroad isn’t just a time to spend off-campus, it is a time to explore a part of the world that you didn’t even know existed. It was an incredible opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and become more aware of a global society. Spain is a beautiful country with so many energetic people. Hopefully being back at Bates, in the shivering weather of Lewiston,

Maine, I hope to find warmth in such a cold place.