By: Noah Zaiser
As the program officially has drawn to a close, there is no doubt that Spain has centered itself as the most memorable aspect. Not just because it was a chance to travel somewhere else, but because of the opportunity to be in a difficult and challenging situation that presented a multitude of obstacles along the way.
You may be thinking to yourself: “What? These students have been raving about their experience internationally, this kid must have it wrong”. Yes, the entire experience of studying abroad has been everything I had hoped it to be and more, but that’s only enhanced by the challenges we faced along the way, and the tools we were given to overcome them. Allow me to explain.
The first official day of school presented a unique situation that I had not faced before. It could easily be described as “get to a class that is about a 20 minute car ride away without a car”. Needless to say, I had to utilize a different solution than what I was regularly used to. All I can say is, thank goodness for public transportation, because it was a crucial part of each and every day. The first week, I hopped on a bus, rode to the tram station, and took said tram all the way to class with 1.5 minutes to spare. The great part about this was that I only learned from these obstacles. Eventually I was able to find a bus that took me all the way over to the University, and saved myself time and trips on my public transport card. Living in a town setting, in urban North Carolina, there’s not nearly as much of a need for buses, trains, and trams. The experience of immersing myself in European culture allowed me to face a completely foreign situation and find a way to tackle it efficiently, and that’s all I can ask of a life experience.
Another unique challenge was the ordeal of breaking the language barrier. Imagine forgetting 80% of the Spanish that you learned in high school and trying to read a menu, let alone order properly. While this was only a minor setback, once again, it provided the ability for me to take a tough situation and become encouraged to learn from it. The name of the game in Spain is repetition, and the more Spanish I spoke, the more I was able to hold a conversation, or eat what I wanted.
As a whole, I believe the toughest situations in life can turn out to be some of the better experiences that we can learn from. In Spain, I was challenged daily and often. Many of my friends and family members sometimes laugh and refer to my study abroad time as a “vacation” or “time off”, but in reality, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Even outside of my school’s campus, I was able to learn from my mistakes and hardships each day, which is a key component of college in any sense. So to say the least, I believe I got the most out of my study abroad experience, even if it wasn’t easy. In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way.