4 Lessons I Learned Studying Abroad

In the summer of 2018, I traveled to Chile with a group of 12 other UNCW students to study the Spanish language. I lived with a host family that did not speak any English, attended school each day and traveled to some of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. I learned so much on this trip about Chilean culture by being fully immersed in their day-to-day lives, and I also learned a bit about myself along the way.


1. Patience

One of the biggest lessons I learned was to love and be patient with what you don’t necessarily understand. This was revealed to me in several different ways, but just being patient with the process of speaking to others and others speaking to me in another language was really challenging at first. However, after a little time and learning patience with my own abilities, it was much easier to get in the groove of things.


2. Adaptability

I’ve always been an adaptable person, but this skill truly revealed itself to me on this journey. Despite the challenges of communication barriers and living in a completely different environment, I learned that being able to be myself and bring my unique energy into each day made everything so much better. Some of my favorite memories were spending time with my host family and feeling like I could just be myself with them, even if we struggled with communication at times. 


3. Vulnerability

Since we were there to study the Spanish language, one of my biggest struggles was trying to effectively speak and converse in Spanish. I often found myself hesitant to speak due to the fear of saying something wrong or sounding inarticulate to native speakers. But sometimes, you have to take a risk and, if you fail, you have to be able to laugh at yourself. I was so worried that my host family thought I was dumb for saying things wrong, but the truth was that they just wanted me to let go and try. After all, communication barriers can arise at any level, so learning to be vulnerable was very valuable.


4. Confidence

Before embarking on this journey, I was unsure about my own ability to adapt and thrive in a new country and living with a host family. How do you know how you'll handle it if you've never done it? You can't without a little trust in yourself. 

I am now confident that I am capable of so much more than I thought I was before this trip. I have a sense of fortitude going forward in every aspect of my life that I would not have had without this experience.