I can’t believe we are almost to the halfway mark of our study abroad experience! It has been amazing and I have learned so much. This experience has definitely changed me for the better already and I cannot wait to keep learning about the culture and travel some more. Though I am having the time of my life, being in a completely different environment was not easy at first. When I first got here, on September first, I didn’t really understand that I was going to live here for almost 4 months! Everything around me changed in less than 12 hours and it felt more like a vacation than anything else. I was excited to be in a new country and a big city and I felt like I adjusted right away. After I adjusted to the new time zone I thought to myself, “Wow, it only took me about 5 days to adjust no all of this?” WRONG! It was only the beginning! The second week rolled around and I was still tired, my eating times along with the food had changed, I now had to ride the metro and walk everywhere instead of driving, I was in a new house, and everything and everyone here is a lot more relaxed than in the U.S…. That’s when culture shock hit me! Then I did exactly what we were advised not to do and I called my mom as I was having a breakdown. Good thing I have an older sister who had gone through the same thing so my parents didn’t worry because they knew I would be fine, and sure enough, 2 hours later I had forgotten all about it! I think it came as a surprise to me because when you talk to people who go abroad they usually don’t mention how hard it was at first. They forget that part because it is such a great experience. Yes, you do hear it at orientation but you don’t really understand what is happening when it is happening. But believe me, everything will be alright.
After that I started to adjust and though it has been hard at times I have had an amazing experience so far. My dad told me to enjoy the good and the “bad” experiences while I am here because I will appreciate this opportunity my entire life. Studying abroad, for most of us, is something you only get to experience once therefore making the best of it is crucial. Making an effort to adapt is very important because our lives are constantly changing so we will always have to adapt to something new.
I am so lucky to have this opportunity to learn about another culture, another language and to travel!
For those of you studying abroad in the future here are some words of advice that my sister told me, “Don’t be afraid to feel scared, frustrated and homesick because it will probably happen more than once!” Do whatever you need to do, cry, vent, or talk to someone because the next day will most likely be awesome and you will have forgotten about everything!
Alessandra Mendez is studying abroad at Universidad Antonio de Nebrija in Madrid, Spain.