Grace Humphreys: Why She's Studying Abroad

We always hear people talk about their study abroad experiences and all that they learned while overseas, but what about that period after you decide to go abroad but before you actually go? Grace Humphreys, a Highlands Ranch, Colorado native and sophomore English major with a minor in Spanish, explores what pushed her to study abroad in Alicante, Spain.

What influenced you to look into study abroad?

I’ve been studying Spanish since I was in the fourth grade – it’s my minor now at Belmont – and there’s only so much a classroom can teach you. Speaking Spanish for 50% of the time, three hours a week just isn’t going to cut it if you’re aiming for fluency. If you want to reach that advanced level of language (and get over what’s called the “intermediate hump”), you’ve got to be immersed in the language 24/7; that’s really the only way you can learn and internalize certain parts of the language. Since I’ve been studying Spanish for so long and want to become more fluent in it, study abroad was really the only next step. Plus, it helps me finish out my minor. :)

Why Spain?

Well, number one, I’ve always wanted to visit Spain (I’ve got a tiny infatuation with all things Europe; it’s sort of a problem) and it’s got such a rich and vivid culture which is going to be an absolute delight to discover. Number two, I’ve got it in my head that Spain might be slightly more safe as a study abroad location–which might be completely fictitious given the amount of European unrest these days–but that thought certainly ran through my head. As a white girl traveling alone, you’ve always got to keep these things in mind.

Was it difficult to make the decision to go abroad versus stay on campus for a semester?

Not at all. Like I mentioned before, it all comes down to whether you really want to learn the language or not, and if you do, you study abroad. Will I miss Belmont’s campus, Jeni’s ice cream, and getting to watch the Preds? Absolutely. But those things will be there for me when I come back. In the meantime, I’m going to explore a new culture.

How much international travel have you done?

Is “some” an adequate answer? I’ve traveled to Uganda for a mission trip that lasted about three weeks and then to Europe (Britain, France, and Switzerland) for a Global Leadership Summit which was a great experience. I’d love to do more though!

What are you most nervous about?

What I think everyone who travels to a non-English country is nervous about: the language barrier. The nerves haven’t started yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in the upcoming months I start having nightmares about not understanding a word my host mother says, having my classmates laugh at me because I pronounced a word horrendously wrong, or getting lost in the maze of Alicante because I can’t read the street signs. I’m fairly certain that none of these things are going to happen, but the fear is there. It’s nerve-wracking to try and navigate in a place where you’re not 100% comfortable with the language.

What are you most excited about?

Oh, the food. That, and getting to experience a whole new culture. And, honestly, getting to explore this new culture on my own, away from Belmont faculty and guidelines.

How have you prepared for your trip?

On the boring side of things, I’ve done all the checklist “to-dos” that are necessary for studying in a foreign country, things like visa applications, registering with the US Embassy, and making sure my passport is still valid. On the fun side of things, this summer I’m planning to read some books on Spanish culture and cuisine and buy a whole new wardrobe (in order to fit in with the highly stylish Spanish culture, you know?)

Are there any particular experiences you have on your Spain bucket list?

Have I mentioned that Alicante sits right on the Mediterranean coast? Because it does. So, I’ll say the beaches. But not the nude ones.

When you think of yourself now versus who you think you’ll be after studying abroad, what changes do you expect to see in yourself?

I think my eyes are open enough to see that I’ve lived a pretty sheltered life up until this point, but they don’t see much past that. So I know that I’m going to grow in a bunch of different ways simply due to exposure to life and the world. And, knowing myself and my tendencies now, a lot of these changes will most likely have something to do with letting go of control and loosening up a bit. I won’t be able to flawlessly pull off all of my time in Spain–and that’s okay–and hopefully, I’ll be able to learn from those messy, new experiences and bring back some of that learned “chill.”

What would you say to someone deciding if they want to look into studying abroad?

I would ask them to consider why they want to study abroad. Because I know, even now, that it’s not a walk in the park (and you are actually there to study). If you want to learn the language and culture? Great, sign up ASAP. If you want to connect with other students learning the language in a fun yet rigorous environment? Amazing, talk to your study abroad advisor. If you only want to hit the beaches, drink legally, and find a hot Spanish boyfriend? Maybe just go there on vacation; you can do all of these things and not fail any classes. 

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