Jordan Mloch is a student at the University of Alabama and a current ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Sevilla, Spain.
I was highly mistaken thinking that the hardest part of studying abroad would be feeling homesick, missing friends, or the grading system in Europe. Now abroad, these concerns are not even close to what I struggle with the most. What I failed to think about realistically was the difficulty of integration into European society and culture. I thought that with my background of the Spanish language and my extensive research into Sevillian culture I was prepared for what came my way. I now realize how wrong I was and know that the only way to truly “prepare” is simply to dive in headfirst.
Studying abroad, for me, was an opportunity to travel, learn more about European politics, and become more confident in my Spanish speaking skills. I know that I am far from fluent (and have come to terms that I may never be), but I know it has helped living in Sevilla.
I was completely unprepared for how easy it would be to speak English and to meet other Americans. Most Europeans are able to communicate effectively in English and generally assume that tourists prefer this. It has taken incredible willpower not to succumb to speaking English and while it can be helpful in times of total desperation, is something I have to constantly work at. My attempts to communicate only in Spanish, while completely intimidating, is worth the endeavor.
My broken Spanish has gradually begun improving, and I know that I’ve learned more in two months abroad than I did in six years of classroom Spanish back home. Truly putting yourself out there and accepting that complete failure and embarrassment might happen is essential to growth. Europeans, in every city I’ve visited, are more than willing to cooperate as long as you try. The friendliness of the locals doesn’t simply stop at communication struggles.
My efforts to learn Spanish has allowed me to establish cross-cultural connections, learn more about different countries (and my own) from others, and realize that the attempt is more important than perfection. The reward truly does match the effort.
The world awaits…discover it.