If you’re considering studying abroad (or even moving abroad), check out my advice on the things I learned while living in Sevilla, Spain!
I’m going to start with packing, because it is really important when you are going away for a long period of time. Here is a list of some of the important things I packed (and forgot to pack, but regretted it) that will hopefully help you to prepare to move to a new country!
- Watch: I recommend bringing a watch with you. When you are home, if you don’t wear a watch frequently, you probably use your cell phone to check the time. While abroad (since pickpocketing and theft is so common) taking your phone out in public can be dangerous. A watch is an easy way to check the time and prevent your cell phone from being stolen. (If you are worried about a nice watch, find a cheaper one to bring so you are not concerned if anything happens to it.)
- Camera: Some people go abroad with the impression that they can take all their pictures on their iPhone. Although the iPhone takes nice pictures, I suggest bringing a camera. Usually a camera has better zoom, which will help you to capture all of the beautiful things you will find during your travels. Also, a camera usually can hang around your wrist, while your cell phone can easily be snatched out of your hand by a pick-pocketer.
- Rain Jacket: Even if you are going to a city famous for its sun (like Sevilla), pack a rain jacket!! Chances are, even if rain is uncommon in your city, you might be traveling to a city (like Paris or London) where rain is common! If you can manage, I suggest packing a small umbrella as well.
- Clothes for all types of weather: This might seem obvious, but don’t forget to pack a big sweater (in case you travel somewhere cold) or a bathing suit (in case you find yourself traveling to the beach). It’s best to have a variety on hand, even if the city you are traveling to has typically the same type of weather.
- Allergy medicine: This is something you don’t always think about, but allergies happen everywhere. Even if you don’t get Spring allergies at home, that doesn’t mean you won’t get them abroad. Since the medicine can be different in each country, I suggest packing a box of your favorite (non-drowsy) allergy medicine from home before you leave!
- Slippers: Carpeted homes is actually more of an American thing, believe it or not! Most homes in Europe have wood or tile floors. Depending on the season, these floors get very cold! Also, if you are living with a host family, it is usually uncommon (and sometimes considered rude) for a person to walk around in their socks or barefoot. I recommend finding a nice pair of slippers to pack towear around the house/hotel/apartment/hostel.
- Contact solution: This only applies if you wear contacts, duh! It was difficult for me to find contact solution while living in Spain and the solution was not the best for my eyes or contacts. My suggestion is to bring a larger bottle, as well as a small (carry-on sized) bottle of contact solution for your travels.
- Good headphones: I only brought one pair of headphones and they broke while I was abroad. To avoid spending money on a new pair, pack two, or a set that is really reliable! Being without headphones is not fun when you are traveling and want to listen to music or Skype your family!
- Neck Pillow: I left for Spain under the impression that I wouldn’t need one of these. I was wrong. Neck pillows are good for when you are trying to sleep on trains, planes, busses…and even at an airport. I suggest buying one that you can blow up and deflate, so it doesn’t take up too much space in your luggage when you are not using it!
- Motion Sickness Pills: This is a good idea to pack for long flights and bus rides.
- Good walking shoes: I cannot stress this enough: people walk everywhere in big cities!!! I brought a pair of comfortable boots and put those pads that make them even more comfy on the inside, and I managed to wear them both down in the course of one and half months! Be prepared and pack comfortable boots, Sperry’s, sandals and sneakers…whatever is going to be easiest for you to get around in! (I probably walked an average of 5-8 miles each day in Sevilla…crazy I know!)
- Band-Aids: Although you can pick these up at a local pharmacy while abroad, it’s good to have a starter pack on hand. Chances are, you will be very busy settling in during your first week abroad. Remember how I mentioned everyone walks in big cities? At first, your feet will probably blister (maybe even bleed) and its good to be have band aids to ease the pain the back of your ankles or bottom of your feet are feeling from all the walking!!
- Flip Flops: Plan on traveling and staying in a hostel??? Bring a pair of cheap flip flops for the shower!!!! This is very important.
Now for more of the fun stuff…
Living in a new country is a great time to take risks and explore! While living in Spain, I took a chance on a trip to Africa for the weekend! Although I was nervous, it turned into the greatest time!! Don’t be too quick to say “no” to a new place, event or type of food. It could turn into a great time!
Make friends with locals
The best way to improve your experience abroad is to make friends with the locals in your city. You will obviously make friends with other Americans who are in your study abroad program, but it is important to branch out. Don’t always travel in large groups of American students. It’s easier to meet locals with a smaller group of 3-4 people. Locals will be able to show you cool places in the city you might not have discovered without them, tell you what food to try and teach you about their culture. It’s nice to know you have friends all over the world!
Television shows, as well as the news, tells a lot about the country you are living in. It can help improve your understanding of the language and keep you informed about the problems going on there.
Go with the flow.
While abroad, you will learn that everything doesn’t go according to plan. For example, your flight might be delayed, you might misread the map, or maybe you are having trouble communicating with people at a restaurant. All of these things can set you back, but you have to learn to go with the flow! Take a deep breathe, let it go, and move on. Sometimes, you stumble upon some really great things when you don’t stick to your plan. These things always make a good story (down the road anyways).
Try not to worry as much about all the things you are eating while abroad because you are probably walking a lot of it off anyways. You’re in a new place, you have to indulge in the local delicacies! So enjoy desert every now and then.
Take the long way home.
You’ll discover new places and new sights. Don’t be afraid to stray off the beaten path a little.
If Lost–Look Up!
Although this may seem strange, trust me when I say it works! If you ever find yourself lost in a city, take the time to look up and around (chances are you will see some tall building or monument in the distance that will point you in the right direction)! So many times Kayla and I were lost in new cities, but found our way by looking up!! We always joked about it while traveling but it’s the truth!! So before you panic, take the time to look up!!
Say yes to one more drink.
Unless you’ve already had too many, why not say yes to another round! You will never remember the nights you stayed in and went to bed early. Trust me when I say that I am the Queen of staying in and going to bed early. But being abroad, drinking is more relaxed. You have more time to enjoy yourself when studying abroad, so why not say yes to another drink?
Bring Toilet Paper…Everywhere
In the States, it’s rare when you come across a stall in a public restroom with no toilet paper. In Europe, it’s rare when you come across a stall in a public restroom WITH toilet paper. This advice is more for the ladies than the gents, but pack some tissues or pieces of toilet paper in your purse wherever you go (restaurant, bar, club, café, school, museum, etc). My friends and I had to learn this the hard way, but trust me–you’ll thank me later.
Practice the native language as often as you can.
This goes along with making local friends, but practice your languages skills as often as you can. The more you use it, the better at it you will be. Everyone starts out rough, but you will only get better as you practice with your host family, local friends and students at your school.
Try new food.
I was a very picky eater when I first left for study abroad. But I told myself that I would try it all, and I did! Take a risk, because you never know what you will end up liking!! It’s all part of the experience.
As you live in a foreign country, and travel around the world, you begin to realize there is so much out there. At home, it is easy for us to be wrapped up in so many little, day-to-day problems. But when you travel, you realize that those problems aren’t really problems at all. You learn to see things differently, and appreciate everything that you have. Few things have the ability to make you feel the way that travel does…It challenges you, humbles you, teaches you and strengthens you. Embrace all of these things that traveling makes you feel and I promise, when you lose yourself in it all, you’ll really be finding yourself. xoxo
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” -Neale Donald Walsch
A while ago, I asked you all to send me in some questions about my study abroad experience. I received some questions, both online and in person, and now I will finally address them!
If I had 48 hours in Europe, and was on a reasonable budget, what should I do?
This question was definitely the most difficult I was asked, so congrats & thanks for the challenge. I’m assuming I can begin this 48 hours wherever and whenever, so here’s where you should start. Paris, France at 1:00pm. Spend the afternoon site-seeing, like the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. Grab a baguette and a coffee in downtown for an afternoon snack. Hike up to Montemartre and Sacre Couer for one of the best views of Paris. Then, stop in a restaurant that serves dinner crepes and have one of those with a glass of wine for a meal. Around 9:00pm, head over to the Trocadero metro stop for the best view of the Eiffel Tower light show. Rent a room at the St. Christopher’s Inn Hostel for one night.
Get an early start and head to the airport for the 2.5 hour flight to Sevilla, Spain. Arrive at 11:00am. Go to the city center and visit the Cathedral. Head to the top of the Giralda for an amazing view! After that, take a walk over to Plaza de Espana to soak in the beautiful Sevillian sunshine. On your way back, stop for some gelato on San Jacinto in Triana. Then, I recommend visiting Mi Barrio, a local bar for some Sevillano dancing and singing. (If you’re feeling feisty, join in!) Then stop at Tribuna Tapas Bar (nearby) for the best patatas bravas in the city. After that, head back across the Triana bridge to the Guadalquivir River for a strawberry mojito (or two) at the kiosk. Then go back into the city center to find Las Setas (the mushrooms)–go to the top, get a drink & watch the sunset over the city. Then be sure to grab more tapas and drinks (at the international beer bar). Finally, visit Buddha–a local club, for some dancing and a few more drinks. (You could sleep in a hostel, or stay out all night dancing like the Spanish–your call!) The following morning, catch the 8am bus to Cadiz for a day exploring the city and sub-bathing on beautiful beaches.
I think this might be the best way to spend 48 hours in Europe. If I had 72 hours, I would probably send you to London or Lagos as well. I believe this is a reasonable budget, considering a flight from Paris on Ryan Air is not that expensive, and neither is the hostel or the bus to Cadiz. You might be wondering why I chose Paris though? I was mesmerized by the city. If you want a feel for Europe, Paris is definitely a great place to explore. The Eiffel Tower light show was one of my favorite things also. And of course, I had to send you to my home in Sevilla as well, because that is one of the greatest cities in Spain!! (:
What was your favorite trip?
I think my favorite trip would have to be Morocco. Originally, I was not expecting to go to Africa but I’m glad I did. It turned into a great adventure… I was able to hike up the hills of Chefchaouen to a mosque, barter with locals for goods and ride a camel along the beach! How can you beat that?
What was the best thing you ate?
I would say it has to be a tie between patatas bravas (typical tapas in Spain) or a macaroon that I tried in Paris. Patatas Bravas are basically home-fry like potatoes with a spicy brava sauce on them (so good!) The macaroon was like nothing I had ever tried before…tres magnifique!
What was the worst thing you ate?
This would probably be blood sausage. My host Mom would put this in my soup frequently. I also tried it cooked a different way when I was out for tapas with friends. In all honesty, it doesn’t taste that bad, but I can’t get the idea of what I am actually eating out of my head to be able to enjoy it. It’s really greasy, which doesn’t help either.
Is it better to live with a host family or in an apartment?
There are pros and cons to both living with a host family and living in an apartment. I am happy that I made the choice to live with a host family. If you are looking to improve your language skills, living with a host family is your best option. Usually in an apartment or residential dorm, you will be with other study abroad students, typically Americans. However, if you live in an apartment you are able to have friends over, cook whatever food you want (when you want it) and have control over your laundry. (Also take into consideration that you have to pay for your own food, which means grocery shopping! That can also be costly!) But if you don’t like to cook, or have to worry about laundry, a host family will do those things for you. It’s also nice to have locals who know the city living with you, so they can give you tips and advice on where to go and what to do! My personal recommendation is host family (but it really depends on what type of person you are)!
What is the craziest thing you did while abroad?
Probably ride a camel……in Africa.
Did you really stay out and party all night like the Spanish?
Sometimes, yes. But most of the time we went home around 3am. Some of you might be shocked to hear that, but 2-3am is actually considered leaving the party EARLY for Spanish people. They stay out until 5-6am on weekends. There was only once I actually stayed out all night, and that was Carnaval of Cadiz. I made it to my bed around 7:00am as the sun was starting to rise…it’s exhausting keeping up with the Spanish!
Was it difficult studying abroad and having a boyfriend?
Yes, it was difficult, but it wasn’t impossible. It takes a strong relationship with a person to be apart for almost 4 months. Sometimes it feels like everything is working against you, for example, the time difference or the lack of Wi-Fi. I would advise you to find a time where you both can definitely Skype each week. If you find that you have more time to talk, then that’s great. But having a set time to catch up is important. My boyfriend and I did not pick a definite time, and that was probably not the best idea. We were always struggling to find a Skype time that worked for both of our busy schedules. It’s important to be patient and understanding (on both ends) in order to make it work! Sending each other mail is also a fun idea to consider! I have to give a huge shout-out to my boyfriend though, for supporting me while I followed my dreams and traveled the world for 4 months. I am so lucky to have a such a great friend like him in my life. Thanks Mark!
If you could go back to one of the places you traveled to, where would it be?
I think I would have to go back to Paris. I felt like there was so much to see but I didn’t really have enough time in one weekend to do it all! It was one of my favorite cities. Everything about it was beautiful. I want to go back to explore and enjoy Parisian life more. I felt rushed when I visited Paris, because we tried to fit in so many things. I definitely would take my time if I went back. Paris isn’t a city you should rush.
Thanks for sending me some questions! I’m working on a few final posts to wrap up my experience abroad, so stay tuned! xoxo
I am excited to share news that I have been nominated for the Liebster Award! Basically, it is an award passed from blogger to blogger to recognize new blogs that we find interesting or enjoy! The idea to spread the word about upcoming blogs with less than 500 followers! I was very surprised and excited when I received a comment from another blogger who nominated me!
There are some rules…
- Thank the blogger who gave it to you & give them a shout-out
- Answer the 11 questions they ask you
- Nominate 11 bloggers with less than 500 followers
- Ask those bloggers 11 questions
- Let the bloggers know they have been nominated so they can continue the chain!!
First things first, I want to thank Becky from gotthepostcard.worldpress.com for nominating me for this award! Check out her blog “Been There, Seen That, Got the Postcard” HERE. She is 23, lives in England, and loves traveling (like myself). Check out her adventures, if you’ve enjoyed mine! Thanks Becky!!
1. Where is your favourite place?
This is a pretty difficult question for me, because I’ve been to a lot of amazing cities. However, Sevilla, Spain holds a special place in my heart and is definitely one of my favorites. The weather is beautiful, the sun is always shining, and there is so much culture, history and passion in the city. You can’t help but love it there!
2. How do you pass time on a journey?
In all honesty, I usually try to sleep. Traveling is exhausting. Whether you’re sleeping in a hostel, on someone’s couch, or in the airport–chances are you won’t always be getting a proper nights sleep. I always try to rest, whether on a bus, plane or train. If I’m not sleeping, I’m usually listening to music and occasionally, reading. But napping is key!
3. What’s the biggest lesson learnt from your travels?
I learned that it is very important to go with the flow. There’s a good chance things won’t go according to your plan, and you have to learn to be okay with that. As a very organized, type 1 person, this was a hard adjustment for me. There were countless times my roommate and I made a game-plan of what sites we would see each day on our trips, and then barely ever followed that plan. Sometimes you stumble across cool places that weren’t in the original plan and you want to check them out! Other times, the weather will affect what you decide to do. It’s important to take a deep breath and go with the flow. You never know what you might find when you venture away from your original plan!
4. Best travel tip?
This is difficult to say, since there’s a million things I would tell people who are just beginning to travel! But one of the most important things, when you first arrive in a new city or place, is to find a map–immediately! Bus stations and airports might have maps, or your hostel/hotel should! A map is one of the best things to help you get around! Another quick tip: If you find yourself lost, try looking up! There were so many times my roommate and I would be lost in a new city, and after running around for a while, we would finally look up and recognize a building in the distance. That always helped us to get our bearings straight and find our way again! But definitely get a map!!!!!
5. Do you have any trips planned?
Currently, I have nothing definitely planned. There are a million ideas floating around in my head about what my next big adventure will be after I graduate school in a year. As of right now, I plan on traveling around New England and enjoying time with my family and friends. In July, I am going camping with my family by the beach. Later this summer, I am hoping to spend a weekend visiting the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island! I also want to road trip down to visit some friends from study abroad in Jersey! Who knows what is in store for me next! All I know is I’ve caught the travel bug, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
6. If you could have any job in the world, what would you do?
ANY JOB? Wow! Let’s see…it’d be nice to have some amazing job where you were paid to travel! I think I would love to work for the travel channel. I could make a good show hostess, right??? (;
7. Solo travel or with a friend?
Although I see the allure of solo travel, I 100% say travel with a friend! It is more comforting to have a friend to journey with, and definitely safer. I was lucky enough to have a great travel partner and it made everything that much better. It’s also exciting to discover new places with someone else and see their reactions to different places and sites.
8. What is your dream destination?
Having already seen a lot of my previous dream destinations, I’ll have to become more creative! I think one of my dream destinations right now would have to be exploring more of Italy. Although I made it to Rome, I know there’s so much more. I think some type of long trip down the coast of Italy (starting up North in Florence and ending by the Almalfi coast) would be incredible!
9. What is your favourite food?
Chocolate ice cream is my all time favorite!
10. Summer or Winter?
Summer: all-the- way!!! I don’t like the snow or cold!! I’d much rather be on the beach in the sunshine!!
11. Which superpower would you choose to have?
I think I would choose flying! I’d like to be able to climb out my window and fly to wherever I want. I also think flying would be a good stress reliever. (This is all very ironic because I am afraid of heights, but I think it would be different if I could fly).
Now time for my Nominations!! (Most of them are young travelers, like myself! The first blog is actually a close friend of mine who studied with me last semester in Sevilla!) Congrats guys!!! Keep on adventuring!
7. Where Am I?
And my questions for you…
1. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be and who would be with you?
2. What is the craziest thing you have seen while traveling?
3. Favorite foreign food?
4. What is the most important thing travel has taught you?
5. What is the key to efficient packing?
6. Who has influenced you the most to travel?
7. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
8. What is the biggest challenge when it comes to blogging?
9. What is your favorite quote and why?
10. What is one thing you will never go anywhere without?
11. What’s your next big adventure?
Good luck & Happy blogging! xoxo
I knew I wanted to write a post when I returned home regarding all the things I learned during my time abroad. It is obvious that living in a foreign country for 3.5 months will teach you a lot, but what exactly did I learn? There are some apparent things every study abroad student learns, and some things that I honestly didn’t expect to learn about.
My Lessons Learned:
This one is pretty obvious, and was one of the main reasons I went abroad. I wanted to become better at Spanish. Before leaving, I had taken some advance Spanish courses for my minor. I was able to read and write relatively well, but speaking was a different story. However, I certainly learned quickly once I was living with a woman who spoke no English. It is challenging, but exciting to be able to speak another language. I was able to catch on to slang and colloquialisms of Sevilla. Before I realized what was happening, my brain began working in Spanish. What I didn’t expect to learn, however, was how to speak a little of some other languages…such as Arabic, French, Portuguese and Italian. I also became very proficient in the art of charades while abroad, especially when my words failed me and the language barrier was too high.
(My “intercambio” (talking partner)Macarena: she’s a Spanish student at the University of Sevilla and the sweetest person!)
I guess it is clear that I would become a better packer while studying abroad. Since I traveled on air planes that charged for suitcases, we always packed what we would need for our trips in our carry-on bags. I am a very indecisive person sometimes (especially when it comes to clothes). But when it came time to pack, I always had to choose a few outfits and hope the weather prediction for the weekend was true. I also learned to not only pack efficiently, but quickly. I can’t count how many times my roommate and I left packing to the last minute. (Not necessarily out of choice but because we were always busy!) At the very end of the semester, one hour before I left Sevilla for my flight home, I was still packing. And then a half hour before leaving, I was sitting on my suitcase in an attempt to get everything to fit. (That was out of choice because I couldn’t believe I was really leaving Spain). When it came to packing it was all about versatile items, such as light jackets that could be taken on and off depending on the temperature. I also learned how to work with less. The packing skills I acquired while abroad will come in handy for the rest of my life!
How to Relax
Living in a country with a slower paced lifestyle than the US, I learned how to truly relax. For anyone who knew me before I left, I was always very busy and always very stressed! This trip was like an extended vacation for me. I finally learned how to slow down, take a deep breathe and enjoy the things around me. I started planning less and less, and celebrating each moment more and more.
Living in a computer aged world, where I was always able to rely on my phone or GPS to help me find my way, I was forced to revert back to reading a map during my time abroad. I can still remember my first day in Sevilla, when my roommate and I had to navigate our way from the center of the city, back to our apartment in Triana. (Getting lost was a normal occurrence my first week abroad). More importantly, maps were most important when visiting other countries. I remember relying on our map of Rome to get us EVERYWHERE. (At least in Paris and London we had some friends to show us around). We would have never found the Trevi Fountain without a map! Being able to read maps, whether city maps, metro maps or bus maps—is a skill I have acquired while living abroad. It is the best way to figure out a city quickly. In all honesty, I think I prefer a map over a GPS now!
This was one of the most important things study abroad taught me. I wouldn’t say I was particularly impatient when I left for Spain, but I certainly did not have the patience I have now. In Europe, Spain especially, people do not mind waiting in lines. My average wait at the post office was 25 minutes, and the average wait in a grocery store check-out line was 15 minutes. As an American, I am not used to waiting like this, but people overseas don’t seem to mind as much. The people in Spain definitely walk slower than in the States too, and no one is ever in a huge rush to get anywhere. My friends and I would constantly joke that we were on “Spain time” when we would show up late to a meeting place—because Spanish people are always late.
Another aspect of patience I learned was listening. At the very beginning of my time abroad, I learned how important patience is when it comes to speaking another language. Lucky for my roommate and me, our host mom was equally patient when it came to conversations. It’s important to not allow yourself to get frustrated when you don’t understand—even when someone repeats themselves three times and you are still confused. Spanish people in general are very patient, not only when it comes to waiting in line but when it comes to speaking with foreigners.
I don’t know how obvious this was to me when I was first planning to study abroad, but saying goodbye to my parents in the airport made me realize that I had no choice but to be courageous the next few months. This was the first time in my life I was truly on my own. Yes, I live at school, away from home, but if I want to see my parents it is only a short drive for either of us to visit. Then suddenly I found myself 3,000 miles away in a foreign country.
Although people often view courage as huge heroic acts, I see it a little differently. Courage is climbing 551 steps to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica even though I’m afraid of heights. It is taking a chance on a trip to Africa and having it turn into an amazing adventure. Courage is asking directions in a country where you don’t speak the native language. It is trying new food…like blood sausage and duck liver and bulls tail. No matter how outgoing you are, courage is something living abroad will teach you. There is no doubt that Spain and the other countries I traveled to tested me every chance they got, but it made me a stronger person in the end. I am so proud of what I achieved and who I have become from living abroad.
(Top of St. Peter’s Basilica!)
Getting Lost is OKAY
I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but I learned that getting lost is okay. Sometimes, when you wander off the beaten path, you stumble upon some of the coolest things. I used to hate getting lost when I was in the US, but there was something tranquil about getting lost on the streets of Paris or the back roads of Sevilla. Eventually, you will find your way… but enjoy getting lost in the meantime. It is something I never appreciated before, and now I realize it is all part of the journey.
(One day when we were lost in Sevilla, my friends and I Stumbled upon this!)
Of course I understood what friendship meant before going abroad. But friendship takes on an entirely different meaning when you live abroad with someone. I was blessed with an amazing roommate and best friend to live and travel with. We saw each other at our absolute worst. We comforted each other when we were homesick and we laughed hysterically over saying the wrong things in Spanish. We took care of each other when the other caught a cold and we looked out for each other, wherever we went. Kayla was my family while abroad and made me realize how truly important it is to have the right type of friends in your life. I cannot express how much I appreciate all the times we had together adventuring around the world. It is certainly difficult to be with someone 24/7 but Kayla and I just worked together. It takes a lot of trust, patience and understanding when living with a friend abroad. I now understand more about true friendship than ever before. Thanks Kay!!
As strange as it is to say that I learned about love while abroad, it’s true. Love is a universal language and my host Mom made that clear right away to us. She explained (in Spanish) that she wanted her home to feel like our homes back in the US. She wanted us to be comfortable and always reminded us that she was there for us if we had questions or needed anything. Although we didn’t always understand each other…smiles and laughter were always understood. It feels like just yesterday I was meeting her for the first time—worried about living with a complete stranger. Before I knew it, she was family. A little over two weeks ago, I stood on the side of the road in a group hug with Kayla and our host Mom, waiting for a taxi to take us to the bus station—all three of us crying because it was time to say goodbye. There are no language barriers when it comes to caring for another person, and my host Mom taught me a lot about hospitality, kindness and love.
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of knowing and loving people in more than one place”
I know it’s been a while since my last post, but let me fill you in! After saying goodbye to my incredible host family, some amazing friends and the most beautiful city, I traveled for over 27 hours to get home to the United States. It was certainly a roller coaster of emotions. By the time I stepped off the plane in Boston, made it through customs, grabbed my bags and made it out to arrivals where my loving family and friends waited for me—I was too delusional to realize that I was finally home. Let’s just say I woke up the next morning, very confused at where I was.
But now, it has been over two weeks, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that my study abroad experience is over. (However, I know this is not the end of my traveling adventures). Everyone seems to be asking me how it feels to be home. In all honesty, it’s amazing, but definitely a mix of emotions. Although I am back with all my favorite people once again, it was sad to leave a place that grew to become a second home.
What is Reverse Culture Shock?
Now, before we left Sevilla, our study abroad program warned us about “Reverse Culture Shock”. Although I’d like to say I didn’t go through culture shock when I first arrived in Spain, I did. And although I’d like to say “Reverse culture shock” doesn’t exist—it does. It’s very difficult to explain exactly what this is, or what it feels like, but I’m going to try to give you a taste of what it was to me.
Basically reverse culture shock is the feeling that you are a stranger in your own home. When someone explained this to me, I didn’t quite understand what they meant so let me try to paint a picture for you.
For almost two days, I struggled to find light-switches in my house. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it gets annoying very quickly. My stomach had a hard time readjusting to American food (maybe because it’s less fresh and more processed than in Spain, but it wasn’t the easiest transition). I wanted to say “gracias” instead of “thank you”, or “perdon” instead of “excuse me” to people. I had to tell myself to speak in English. I even got overwhelmed when I went out to eat for the first time, because of the number of choices on the menu and how frequently the waiter came to check on us. Driving was exhausting and strange to get used to again. I was waking up at 5:00am, wide awake, and falling asleep at 9:00pm. I missed the friends I saw every day in Spain, especially my roommate Kayla. That is what reverse culture shock was for me. Now that I am through with the confusing adjusting phase, I am faced with missing study abroad and traveling.
I am relieved to be home, but there is no doubt I will go through waves of sadness as I talk about my experience and show people pictures of my trips. But I believe that is natural. I miss the sunshine of Sevilla and being able to walk anywhere. I miss sitting by the river and watching the sunset. I miss having futbol (soccer) be the only sport they show on TV in bars and restaurants. I miss telling my host Mom about my day at dinner. I miss being able to legally have a glass of sangria with a meal. I miss jet-setting off to a new country each weekend I miss my host brother making fun of us. But, most of all, I miss the culture and relaxed atmosphere of Spain. It was hard not to enjoy life while abroad, and I will certainly miss that.
Getting over Reverse Culture Shock
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” -Dr. Seuss
Even though a lot about first coming home is tiring and stressful…it passed quickly. I was able to get over the frustration of “reverse culture shock” by spending time doing the things I missed while being away, like hanging with my family and friends. There are so many things that make me happy about being home. I am relieved to eat American food and take a shower in my house, where the temperature of the water stays the same. I can walk into a store and understand (mostly) everything strangers are talking about around me. I can go out to dinner with my boyfriend instead of having “skype dates”. I can watch TV in English, without bad voice-overs on American movies and shows. I can go into a grocery store and have choice (probably too much choice). My milk is stored in the fridge instead of the cabinet. I can wear sweatpants out in public without being judged. I can hang out with my Mom whenever. I can text/call my friends without worrying about a time difference…The list goes on.
The important thing about getting over reverse culture shock is to realize how blessed you were to have the experience of studying abroad in the first place. You can look at your home country through new, well-traveled eyes. You appreciate the presence of your family and friends much more.
The best thing you can do when coming home after an extended period away, is to realize that you can and will most likely go through “reverse culture shock”. Being aware of this will help you to quickly overcome it. Surround yourself with loved ones and keep busy. Attempt to get back into a normal routine as fast as possible. When you’re ready, make a photo book of your time abroad. Try not to dwell on the fact that this adventure is over, but look at it the beginning of many more adventures! xoxo
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can se the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” -Terry Pratchett
As my time abroad in Sevilla draws to an end, I want to open up about my experience and answer any questions you might have about my journey!! I can talk about anything you’re interested in really… culture shock, adjustment, traveling, personal experiences, high’s & lows…I’m up for whatever!
If you have any questions about my trip that you would like me to answer in my next blog post, please either comment on this post or send me an e-mail at Amanda.firstname.lastname@example.org ! I would love to hear from you guys!! Let me know what you are most curious about, so I can be sure to cover it in my next post!!