Before departure, the idea of traveling abroad alone terrified me, being a person of color, and my loved ones as well. I spent weeks trying to convince my family and myself that I had made the right decision, and in the end, I would come out with more knowledge than I had before the trip. Indeed, I was correct. My experience studying abroad was nothing short of eye-opening. Prior to arriving in Spain, my research could not have fully prepared me for the fantastic time I would spend in such a beautiful country. Everything in Spain seemed almost perfect, from the stunning scenery on my daily walks home to the unforgettable late-night outings with my friends.
Furthermore, in my experience, the teachers at La Universidad de Alcalá were exceptional. For the first time, I took courses entirely taught in Spanish, yet the teachers helped me to quickly adapt to the new setting. Moreover, studying abroad brought forth a new side of myself that I barely noticed in America. To elaborate, I am generally quiet, but from my first day in Spain, I talked to new people and made friends everywhere I went. Although overall, my time abroad was exceptional, there were a few challenges that I encountered. As stated earlier, my first week was difficult, given that I lived with strangers and everything felt different compared to America. After my first few days, I discussed with my host family how I felt, and they decided that the best way to bring us closer and clear my doubts about studying abroad was going on a family trip. After the trip, we became more bonded, and I no longer felt like a foreigner in their home.
Moreover, another challenge I faced was feeling out of place, given the lack of diversity in Spain. Specifically, from the time that I arrived at my new home, I could feel the long stares, the sharp head turns, even by drivers passing by, and the shocking whispers made by civilians as I passed by them either with my family or alone. Even though most of the attention was brought on by pure curiosity, it didn’t stop me from feeling like a foreign object. After discussing my worries with a new friend that I made who’s lived in Spain for over a year, she helped me to look at my situation from a different perspective. For instance, when I noticed people staring at me, I simply smiled and spoke to them. Unsurprisingly, after conversing with them, many Spaniards innocently expressed their curiosity and wondered if I had some trinkets of my own. In the end, after countless conversations stemmed from long stares, I made several new friends in Spain by using people’s curiosity to meet new people and make friends from all over Spain.
All in all, studying abroad was a great opportunity, and my only regret was that I did not choose to study overseas for a more extended period of time.
KristiAnna Walker (BSN Nursing) spent Summer 2022 in Alcala de Henares, Spain as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. KristiAnna had the following to say about study abroad, “Studying abroad opens doors for several new possibilities. Although it may feel like a scary decision, in the end, you will discover how this experience will set you apart from others and bring opportunities that you never thought were there. How can you ever move forward if you don’t take the first step?”
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