Since September I have been studying Spanish for my Spanish major in Seville Spain. After finishing the first semester and going home for Christmas break I’m now preparing to return to Seville for my last semester abroad. While I’m studying abroad in Spain I hope to gain fluency in Spanish so that I can be a more culturally educated person competent in communication. Mastering a foreign language is a ubiquitous goal for many students studying abroad, but many underestimate the effort and commitment a full language emersion requires. Last semester I started my year abroad intending to be fluent by the time I finished the school year but after weeks of only being around American classmates I realized that a full language emersion requires much discipline and motivation to accomplish. My experiences last semester have better prepared me to accomplish my goal because I know what to expect and how to avoid being only around Americans. This semester I’m most excited to engage more with the Spanish language and see what opportunities arise from being around locals more. Last semester I spent most of my time adjusting to Spain and traveling with American friends but now I want to be primarily focused on speaking Spanish. I’m nervous about having a hard time finding consistent Spanish contacts to talk with every week but I’m confident that locals are eager to practice English as well. To overcome these obstacles I’m going to find volunteer opportunities that require me to talk to locals so that I can practice Spanish. This semester I optimistic and motivated to accomplish my goals and go back to Western fluent in Spanish.
Archives for January 2018
Some of the biggest takeaways from this experience were visiting so many cities in Europe, making new friends, growing as a person, being out of my comfort zone and learning from that, living in a different culture and gaining new perspective on home and my life.
The advice that I would give to students who are planning on studying abroad would be to make sure that you do a lot of research on the place that you’re going. Do you want a big city or a smaller city? What are the customs of the people that live there?
I would definitely make sure you have enough money to travel other places if you go somewhere like Europe, or simply stay at your study abroad town.
I would also consider trying to study abroad during the beginning of your time here at Western, rather than towards the end.
It has been a little stressful coming back and dealing with reverse culture shock. I am a senior so I am graduating at the end of spring and have to figure out where I want to go when I leave Western. Having to think of that and also be back to somewhere where everything is the same but I feel different feels stressful. Although, I understand that this is a part of reverse culture shock and it too will pass and I will feel more adjusted the more time I spend here.
This experience was challenging in many ways and also holds some of my best memories. I will forever cherish the times that I had. I honestly can say that I grew so so so much on a personal level. I learned how to take care of myself with the unfamiliar being gone and I learned how to love myself, others and different countries. It was a great experience and I’m very grateful that I got to go through it.
These photos are from Rome, Italy.
This posting will be the first of five required for the TWP (discussed in my first posting) through WWU EdAbroad. For a more detailed account of the TWP you can visit/.
“Pre-Departure: What are your goals for your international experience?
- What do you hope to gain and how much research have you done on your host country and culture that will better prepare you for this experience?
- What are you most excited about? What are you most scared or nervous about?
- What strategies have you implemented that will allow you to overcome these challenges and take full advantage of your opportunities?”
The above questions, taken directly from the posted link, will be the focus of my posting today.
From my previous posts you may have noticed that research is something I have been struggling with. I’ve done some broad reading on the history of the Czech Republic through Nazi occupation, the Soviet era, and the separation of Czechoslovakia. I still have a lot to learn about the Czech Republic’s past, but for now I at least have a little bit of background. I stumbled upon someone’s personal blog who seems to have married into a Czech family and offers a lot of practical advice about the dos and don’ts in Czech culture. From what I have read so far, punctuality, being polite and non confrontational, and somewhat reserved are some important social norms in Czech Republic. The author of the blog mentions on many occasions that he found his information from either committing a “social don’t” or simply asking locals what their opinion on a certain behavior was. Again, I still have a lot more to learn, but soon enough I will be learning first hand and it’s nice to have some knowledge on what is acceptable and what isn’t.
I will post all the links to websites that I have found helpful at the end of this posting.
I don’t have any one thing that I am particularly looking forward to. I am just excited to have the chance to experience something not available to me here in the USA. Each place on earth has their own history and way of life and I am excited to be a part of that. and Learning about the importance of and emphasis on different norms and practices will be a fascinating way to expand my knowledge. My main concern right now is my ability, or lack thereof, to communicate in the local language of Czech. I am enrolled in a two week kick starter language class that starts when I arrive in the Czech Republic, but, obviously, I will not be fluent in such a short time. From everyone I have talked to that has been to the Czech Republic, they have all said most people speak English. That being said, I don’t want to be that traveller or tourist who comes into a foreign country and expects everything to be catered to my inability to communicate or my lack of preparation. I’ve had some trouble finding Czech language learning apps/websites/etc that work for me so Rick Steve’s handy dandy phrases are all I’ve got to go on right now. Communication is overall concern, everything else I am worried about comes along with this concern.
I am handling my concerns in the same way that I handle all other situations: lists. You can ask anyone and they will tell you I love my lists. Having everything written down in front of you makes anything you have to do a matter of following the steps and checking off those boxes on the list. While I don’t have a specific plan for overcoming my barriers at the moment, I know that if I write it all down I will be able to “connect the dots” and follow the steps I will lay out for myself to handle whatever is thrown at me. And, of course, I have a wonderful network of friends and family who I know will always be there to back me up if there is something my lists can’t handle.
Any tips, tricks, or concerns you have or I should know I am always looking for more info I will do my best to update my blog in a less erratic fashion while I am away. For more frequent updates, I have started an Instagram page for a more image focused account of my travels found at @acrosstheshiftingseas directly from Instagram./ or
The next time you hear from me I will have made it to the Czech Republic!
Uvidíme se brzy!
Czech History: https://www.britannica.com/place/Czech-Republic
Winter quarter has officially started at Western, and it has been 17 days since I said goodbye to Lyon.
While I’m really excited to be back with my friends, and living the university life again; I’m still adjusting to life back in the states. Four months doesn’t seem very long, but it felt like a lifetime at the same time. Everyone has been asking me, “so… how was France?” My answer now is that it feels like a dream, and it truly does. But it was one of the truly remarkable and amazing times of my life.
A lot of people have asked me if I think I’ve changed, and I don’t think so. I feel more confident, and I feel that I’m more willing to take risks now, however, I don’t think that that’s something that’s changed about me. I think that those feelings have always been there, and studying abroad just allowed me to unlock that part of myself.
Studying abroad is one of the most rewarding things a student can do. The opportunity to discover new cultures, meet new people, and just take those chances that you wouldn’t take ordinarily… it’s difficult to put into words, but it’s a really wondrous, eye-opening thing.
If anyone is considering studying abroad, my advice is just to submit your application and do it. You won’t regret taking time for yourself; to discover who you are outside of the comfort of your friends and family, the USA even. Taking time to get to know more of the world that we inhabit. Just take the shot, trust me. It will be hard, but it will be worth it.
As my time abroad was drawing to a close, I had already decided to study abroad again. That’s the type of amazing impression it left on me. I want to take those risks again, learn new things about the world, others, and myself all over again. I’ve been doing research into new programs to check out, and I can’t wait until the day when all is decided again, and I can hit submit on a new application and open that new door, and I want other students to see that it’s not as hard as one may think.
I came into university knowing I wanted to study abroad, but not knowing if it would be possible. After doing it, I realized that if I had had someone talking to me about the possibilities before university, I may have done it even sooner, and I did it pretty fast once I did learn more. That’s why, when my old high school teacher asked me to speak in class I knew I was going to do it, and I haven’t given a full presentation for the students yet, but when I visited and the kids heard about my time abroad and their faces all lit up, I got excited just knowing how excited they must feel, how I felt in high school about studying abroad.
This program has truly affected me. From the sense of wonder I felt pre-departure; the excited nervousness of just wanting to be there already, and the crazy thought that it was really happening. To the complete bliss I felt while there (besides the occasional instance, of course) everyday I really had to remind myself of where I was, and that feeling of amazement was returned anew. Now? Now it feels really surreal, but I look back and I smile when thinking about all of the amazing adventures I had, because it truly was quite an adventure.