It is hard to believe that I have been back in the U.S. for two weeks now and quickly transitioning into this next phase of life. I am always surprised by the difficulty of transitioning back into the culture that I know best (especially when I just moved to another state and started a new job!). Alicante left such a strong impression on me that I hope to keep close as I enter back into a lifestyle that, in many ways, is very different than that of the Spaniards.
Coming home, there were certain things I missed that I had taken for granted before going to Spain, such as air conditioning, driving on a wide-open road, endless options at the grocery store, and free water at restaurants. It sounds silly, but even taking slightly longer showers or being back on my routine does feel nice. However, I hope to cling to certain parts of the Spanish culture that I found so beautiful and healthy in a more workaholic, fast-paced culture here in the U.S., such as slowing down at meals to have conversations, actually take full lunch breaks, choosing to leave stress behind when coming home, and truly remembering that life is much more than only a career or what our society defines as successful. I never felt rushed by someone during my time in Alicante whether by my professors, host parents, or peers, and was challenged greatly to reprioritize my life and the idea that there should always be time for those you care about.
The ultimate goal of learning anything new is finding a way to realistically implement it into your life moving forward. I am thrilled to say my Spanish language skills improved while I was in Spain, but the real challenge now that I am back in the United States and graduated will be to continue learning and finding opportunities to speak the language here in Arizona. Additionally, it’s interesting how quickly we can adopt other characteristics, mannerisms, or perspectives while abroad. A few of these I picked up while studying in Alicante I am challenging myself to continue practicing moving forward – such as speaking more directly to my peers, being more spontaneous in my “yes’s”, and overall carrying less stress on my shoulders (this was probably a blend of the Spanish culture and the fact I lived on the Mediterannean Sea, let’s be honest…). Still, I am so thankful not only for the language improvement but life skills and perspective I gained while abroad.
If you are considering studying abroad and the fear of the unknown is holding you back, I can confidently say it is so worth doing. You may have a few awkward or uncomfortable moments but the personal growth, cultural awareness, and overall appreciation of differences will be an incredible (and FUN!!) learning experience.
As we often said in Spain, ¡vale la pena!