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What I’ve Learned about Myself During my Time Abroad

Yes, I’m about to be super basic and write about my time abroad in Madrid. But no, I am not going to write about how this experience dramatically changed my life and changed who I am as a person. Instead, I am going to write about how it made me realize things about myself that I hadn’t known before. Experiencing a different way of living and having a real sense of independence brought out parts of myself that hadn’t had the chance to be explored. So here are a couple of the things I learned about myself through this unique experience:

First, I definitely made the right decision in choosing to become a science major. Prior to this semester, I always despised my science classes because I knew how much work and time they were going to take up. I was excited for my semester in Madrid because I would be taking my humanities core classes. I was prepared for an easy semester and classes that were more interesting than the harder sciences. However, I soon realized that humanities classes are really not my thing. The classes have not been able to captivate my attention whatsoever. I constantly feel myself drifting off in class or daydreaming about other things. It is so hard for me to focus in my classes, and I often get bored. I never thought I would miss my science classes, but I do miss that stimulation and challenge. I’m glad that I chose the right major.

Second, I actually enjoy dancing, and I’m not half bad at it. I would never in a million years consider myself a performer. I dance and sing in an ironic way, never because I think I’m actually talented. So I was a little afraid to be taking a flamenco dance class this semester. Yet this class has been one of my favorites. Dancing is such a great form of exercise and self expression. I love the power that I feel when I am stomping in my heeled shoes in class. And though I feel funny when I dance, I am actually really fast at picking up the moves. I never before would have thought that I could be good at dancing, but this class makes me feel like I can be. 

Third, I am much better at understanding Spanish than I am at speaking it. Living in Madrid has both helped my Spanish abilities and hindered it. Living with my host family and hearing Spanish everywhere I go has helped me in my understanding of the language and my listening skills. However, my speaking skills have not improved at all, in fact they have probably gotten worse. Instead of focusing on my grammar and trying to say things correctly, I speak solely to get my point across. I try to simplify my language down as much as I can so people will understand me. So although being exposed to the language has been amazing, I am going to need to do a little bit of grammar review before my next Spanish class.

Fourth, I am really not a homebody. Coming to Spain I really thought that homesickness was going to hit me hard. I was afraid that I was going to miss my family and my home. I was so sad that I wouldn’t be able to see some of them until December. Surprisingly, the home sickness never truly hit. There were moments when I wished my family could experience certain things with me, but I never actually missed my home. The idea of going back to my home actually makes me sad. I’d like to see my family, but I do not want to go home. I have no need nor any desire to go home.

Lastly, I am a Type A person. This was probably the most surprising revelation that has come from this experience. Prior to coming here I have always said “I don’t care” and “It doesn’t matter to me.” I went with the flow of things and didn’t care too much about what was to be done. I thought that I was a very easygoing person. However, I have been the opposite of easygoing here. With all the traveling we have done I have laid out very detailed itineraries. I keep track of where we need to be when, how we need to get there and how long it will take. I keep to strict schedules, and find myself highly annoyed when those schedules change. I get extremely anxious when things aren’t working out. I set lofty goals and try to get as much done as I can, sometimes without being practical in my ideas. This whole aspect of my personality is completely new to me, and a complete turnaround from who I was. But this personality has been especially helpful in making sure that I get the most out of my experience.

Although some of these realizations are a bit odd, I would not have had them without this experience. Learning about yourself is such a vital part of traveling, and I’m thankful that I’ve been able to do just that.

A lover of donuts, cheesy rom-coms, warm blankets, and the Chicago Cubs
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