There’s one thing studying abroad definitely provides: a unique opportunity for growth — one I think everyone should take advantage of at some point before graduation (not #sponsored).
Obviously, one doesn’t have to study abroad to experience growth. It seems we are always surrounded by opportunities that — if we choose to engage — will not leave us the same as we were before we engaged. However, studying abroad in Spain this spring has stripped me of much that was once comfortable and left me with myself, the Lord and my checked bag and carry-on.
Not necessarily in a bad way, may I clarify? It may not always be the easiest, but that’s to be expected.
Immersion in another culture is a continual, conscious decision. It wouldn’t be that difficult to cram my way through classes, speak Spanish only when necessary or acknowledge only the romanticized experiences of studying abroad.
Intentional immersion in culture means culture shock and culture clash; it means consistent crossing of paths with new people who open your eyes to an even greater imagination of how grand the Imago Dei is; it requires willingly sitting in the tension of different mindsets and beliefs. It means being humbled daily. It requires you to befriend your imperfection in language but also just in general. It gives you with new hobbies and new environments for old hobbies. It allows for opportunities to pursue intimacy with the same, consistent God from a different cultural lens; it means bringing life’s hardships with you and wrestling with the Lord’s plan for said hardships. I could go on, but I have a limit of 600 words. To summarize, it’s a continuation of the complexity of life — both the hard but also the incredibly beautiful — just in a different place. I. Am. Learning.
I asked a few of my friends here to describe how life here in Spain is different than back in the U.S.. And yes, there are many differences as well as many similarities. These were some of their responses: flexible, easy-going, perspective, content, enlightening.
All of these are true and feed into the “no pasa nada” mindset here in Spain. Sweating things big or small is not the norm, running from one appointment to the next need not happen. But pausing and actually being where you are — that is the goal. I find that, when I adopt this mindset truly, I am able to more fully see and participate in the ways the Lord is challenging and growing me, and I hope to bring this discipline back with me.
At this point, I only have a couple hundred words left, and I don’t think any of this has really flowed or made a ton of sense, but sometimes such is life and sometimes such is studying abroad. One thing I know: I have fallen in love with Seville — the people, the culture, the way of life and the ways the Lord has met with and refined me here.
To wrap up, I want to share the lyrics from my favorite song here this spring. La canción se llama “Vuelvo a Casa,” y la letra lleva tanta belleza:
“Vuelvo a casa, vuelvo a casa
A la casa de mi Padre que me ama y me llama
Me llamas por mi nombre
Aunque conoces mi pasado
Aun así me aceptas
Y Tu hijo soy
Y Tu hijo soy
Y Tu hijo soy
Y tu hijo soy.”