Vivid are the moments that led up to my departure from Memphis, TN to Barcelona, Spain. I had worked tirelessly to accomplish a number of things before May 2013-- study abroad applications, financial aid applications, grad school applications, more financial aid applications, and the one thing I could not neglect, finishing my last semester at The University of Tennessee strong.
I went abroad much later than most people decide to take that adventure. When I landed in Barcelona, I had already walked across the stage for my Bachelor's degree in Business Administration. They say it's better late than never, I absolutely agree. Pushing my summer abroad until the very last quarter, I was able to intern for two summers at a Fortune 500 company in my field of choice. I always knew that I wanted to leave the country and explore my unknown, so I purposely backed myself into a corner-- I elected to take on a collateral in International Business, which required that I study abroad before I could receive my diploma. This took the doubt and neglect out of the equation. I had to leave the country.
The weeks leading up to leaving The United States were emotional-- happy, sad, scared, excited-- not to mention, my parents were scared to death to send their oldest child off to a country they've never explored. Upon arriving, it was everything I expected. Beautiful and rich in history. I had a new perspective. I found my passion. I learned. I struggled.
Summer in Barcelona was and is the first of many international escapades to come! Studying abroad during college is the optimal time to begin exploring the world, if you haven't started already! If you have, Kudos. College is a time for learning, having a ridiculous amount of fun while learning what responsibility really means, and traveling abroad to take on courses will definitely expose you to all of those, but to the 10th power.
MY STUDY ABROAD HIGHLIGHTS
SURVIVED A NEW CITY
Throughout my life, I have stood on the shoulders of some great people. It's a privilege to know people willing to help you and I am forever grateful, but sometimes I wonder what can I do all by myself. This is one occurrence in life where I feel like I accomplished something end-to-end by myself. Navigating a foreign city by foot and public transportation with no cellular service when I'm used to a car and navigational system is quite a feat! This taught me that I can accomplish the unthinkable and that if I rely on God as my guide and be sure of myself, I will be alright!
GRANTED A NEW PERSPECTIVE
In some places in the world, the government has control over what they see and think about other places. In America, the media has that control. Being abroad there were some aspects of the cities where I thought "America is so behind!" Think: gun control, education This contradicts the thought that America is claimed (primarily by Americans) to be the best country in the world. Or even just seeing the historic cathedrals put into perspective how young The U.S. really is compared to these other countries. Also, one of the most shocking to me was that America isn't the only place that suffers from discrimination towards certain people. In Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, the people are known to feel somewhat superior, which left me experiencing something I've never experience in America, direct racism. I'm appreciative of those experience, because ignorance is intolerable these days.
FULL LANGUAGE EMERSION
It was, and still is, my goal to be fluent in Spanish. Though I'm not there yet, I know enough to be dangerous. One of the best compliments I received was from one of my coworkers whose native tongue is Spanish. He was first shocked that I picked up the words he was teaching me (one's that hard for his bilingual children to pronounce) and told me that I have a seasoned Spanish accent.
LOOKS GOOD IN BLACK AND WHITE
Studying abroad has done wonders to my resume. I completed undergrad and immediately enrolled in graduate school which meant that I was sacrificing full-time experience until much later. I found that studying abroad gave me an edge over other candidates because I had a global perspective of Marketing that others may not have gotten in their first role out of college. Looking back, I would take traveling over a full-time gig any day, so I would do it just the same!
MY STUDY ABROAD PAIN-POINTS
JUGGLING SCHOOL, LIFE AND STUDY ABROAD
Unlike other student travelers, I graduated before I studied abroad which means that I had a lot of moving parts in my life towards the end of my senior year. I was applying for jobs, graduate school, study abroad programs, and scholarships on top of studying for classes and the GMAT. I was always active on campus so add that to my list of commitments. This was a difficult season for me, but I knew it was all worth it. The pay-off was well worth it.
MANAGING MY HEALTH WHILE ABROAD
While abroad, I didn't listen to my body. I do that often in the states, thinking that my headache is just my sinuses acting up or my stomach ache is just that something I ate wasn't the best. My body didn't recoup as well after traveling across the world and I didn't respond as quickly as I should have costing me several days of enjoyment due to feeling ill.
Obviously, this isn't just a study abroad pain-point, but when it shows it's ugly head in a foreign country, it tends to be more of an issue. Due to pain-point numero uno, I slacked in applying to scholarships and some of the ones I was awarded, I missed the deadline to accept because life was so crazy. As a result, I went the cheapest route for travel (worst idea ever) and I didn't get to travel much while I was in Spain.
DISCONNECTING FROM THE U.S.
On both of my study abroad trips, I was a wi-fi junkie. It was like a drug to see a free wi-fi sign at a cafe. Not disconnecting from my phone disconnected me from the cities I visited. I didn't miss a beat while I was away and when someone asked me if I was ready to go back home I would say no. That's because technology never allowed me to completely leave the states. I imagine studying abroad in the pre-cell phone times and picture that to be the ideal experience!