Studying abroad has become one of the most interesting stories I have to tell about myself now. Considering I have done it twice; Last year to China, and this past summer to Spain. I find it amazing how an experience becomes a part of your whole being. That is what traveling is, telling a story and learning other ones along the way. Your story is what you get to share with your loved ones once you return. It is kind of strange how you experience something like this, and none of your friends or family will ever actually know what it was like no matter how many times you tell your story. That is what makes it so special. It is your story that only you know every minuscule detail of. I can remember how the smell of the main street in Granada, Spain smelled every morning on my way to class. The sound of the locals speaking, music playing, salesmen selling. The taste of every different dish that my host mom had prepared for me. How my clothes felt different when they were washed by someone else and dried in a different way. To others, it is “oh, she went to Spain for the summer that was cool”, or “How was it? Good? Cool!” No one else gets to feel or understand every high and low you get to experience.
Studying abroad for me was very challenging this time around. The first time I studied abroad in China it was faculty led, and there were ten other UTC students. It was also only an eleven day trip, and it was amazing – China is like another planet! However, this summer, I went to Granada, Spain. I lived in Granada from June twenty-eighth until August first. Once I got on my plane out of Nashville, I was completely on my own. No other UTC students were in this program. No teachers to just tell me everywhere to go this time. A foreign country and foreign airport by myself? Yikes! Luckily, through ISA (my study abroad program) they had every detail in our student portal for us. It made the anxiety of traveling somewhere I have never been before, looking for people I have never met before, much less of a hassle. This varied with every program and time, but my group I met with at the airport was only made up of six. This gave the six of us a chance to become really close and reliant on one another. None of us were from the same state, so it made our time together even more meaningful.
After four days in Madrid, we all got picked up by our host families. After only a few days together we were already sad to not be sharing hotel rooms and having sleepovers every night. However, we all had amazing host families. They catered to our every need, and each family fit the personality of each student so well. I definitely suffered from some travel anxiety and depression. Being away from home for this long was something I had never done. Let alone with people I did not know or a country I had never been to. Every trip you take will have some sort of bump in the road, every story has a plot twist. Reminding myself how blessed I was to be on that journey made my anxiety subside. I talked to my family and friends back home often so I would not get homesick, but I definitely remembered to put my phone down and enjoy the experience.
School there was quick, the professors were absolutely amazing. The days were extremely hot, and most places did not have air conditioning. That was also rough to adapt to, but I prevailed. My favorite memory from Spain was when my friends and I went on a self-led weekend getaway to Alicante. Absolutely amazing. I feel like I suffered culture shock coming back to America more severely than leaving it. The way of life in Spain is so stress free, I was only a student there not working two part time jobs like I do here. It was hard to get back into the groove of our fast-paced society for sure.
In conclusion, I would recommend studying abroad to any student or future student. Even if they have never considered it I would recommend it. I love ISA as well, I used them on both trips I have taken so I am a little biased but they are absolutely amazing! I do not think enough people study abroad for many different reasons. Whatever those reasons may be, push them aside and go for it anyway. Everything will work out and there is a team of people helping out and rooting us on. This was a trip I will never forget, a story I will never stop telling, and an experience only I will fully comprehend.
Anna Douglas is majoring in Criminal Justice and spent the Summer 2019 semester studying abroad in Granada, Spain through ISA. Anna had the following to say about studying abroad, “Just go for it! You will NOT regret it!”
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