By Angela J. Wilensky
Growth. Independence. Relationships. Culture. Beauty. These are some of the words that come to my mind when I reflect on my incredible, unforgettable, life-changing study abroad experience. When the opportunity to write this blog post was presented to me, I more than happily agreed. However, I’ve definitely hit a wall: I have too much to say. I’m serious! I haven’t been able to organize my thoughts, thus postponing my submission. It’s just that I feel like I’ve lived more of my life in the past 8.5 months than I have in my first 19 years. I know all of this might sound a bit dramatic, but I don’t know how else to express how transformative this year has been for me. Here I am at the end of my course here, and I can honestly say that this has been the best year of my life thus far.
For one, I went completely out of my comfort zone: I have never moved outside of the Bay Area, I live only about an hour or so from my college, and I have never really been away from home AND my family for more than a week. So when I made the decision to move to a country whose official language I don’t speak, whose culture I know nothing about, and with people whom I’ve never met, I was blindly strapping myself into a rollercoaster. As you can probably imagine, it was 100 percent the wildest, most loop-filled, most fun and exciting ride I’ve ever been on, and I’m so proud I survived it. I learned Spanish; I traveled to 11 countries (and learned to travel with just a carry-on, something unheard of for me); I made some of my BEST friends, both American and Spanish; and I managed to grow in my relationship with God.
Staring with my studies; I mean, how cool is it to completely immerse yourself into a new culture and learn a completely new way of communicating? Personally, my main reason for studying abroad in Spain was, in fact, to learn Spanish. Everything else that came with it was just an extra bonus. I spent many months taking conversation, composition, grammar, and test prep classes, as well as some fun extracurriculars such as Flamenco, Folklore, Translation, and Health. Plus, I interned in the kitchen and taught ESL to first and second graders. Needless to say, I kept myself busy while having an absolute blast. And to top it all off, I received my DELE B1 official certification (Feel free to Google that on your own time)!
Straying a bit from all of the Spanish talk, I also traveled to so many new places both in and outside of Spain! My school took us on some amazing trips to locations all over Spain, Gibraltar, and Morocco, and I was able to do some independent adventuring in Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, England, France, Austria, and Malta. Experiencing the cultures of other countries has changed my perspective on life as a whole, as well as has given me a greater appreciation for everything I have back home in California.
Speaking of everything I have back home, I can’t even fathom how lucky I am to have met all of the people I did. Right at the beginning of the school year, the whole Adventist community in our area went on a campus ministries trip in the middle of Spain, and I was lucky enough to meet so many Spaniard right off the bat. Throughout the year, my friendships with them only grew better, and I know I now have lifetime friends here. Plus, I built strong relationships with my professors and other school faculty—relationships I will cherish forever. Of course, I also became extremely close to the other ESDES students from all of the different Adventist universities. I met some people this year that really did change my life, and they are a huge part of the reason I loved my year abroad.
To close, I found myself a lovely community of God-fearing church members with whom I felt comfortable, safe, and welcomed. My favorite Bible verse is found in Matthew 5:16, and it says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” I’m incredibly humbled and blessed I was able to sing and share God’s goodness in that church with those beautiful people. I’m just so moved by the fact I can now glorify my God with a wider range of people because I’ve learned another language. I know this isn’t the type of “wow factor” most people would expect from a study abroad experience, but it truly made an impact on me and my time in Spain. I’ve never had to rely on God more than I’ve had to this year, so I really am thankful for everything I experienced on this remarkable journey.
Well, I’ve certainly written more about my experience than I was asked to, but I guess, in short, I just want to say if you’re even considering studying abroad in the slightest, go. One year abroad will not ruin all of your plans of graduating on time and getting on with life as soon as possible. Just slow down; there’s no rush. Study abroad now while you still have this incredible opportunity (before it’s too late and you really do have to get on with life). You won’t regret it. Regardless of how your experience goes, whether you’re abroad for just a summer or for an entire three quarters, you will grow and learn so much about yourself, and that in itself should be enough a reason to make that final decision to turn in those papers and hop on your flight to your new home.
PD Quería decir gracias por todo, España. Te echaré de menos y te prometo que regresaré algún día. Te quiero muchísimo.