We were all waiting in the gym auditorium, each sophomore crowding around each other in a deafening sound of conversation. We all had an envelope in our hand and grasped it hard, knowing that what was in there would tell us what our future would be in the next several months.
The murmur of conversations began to die down as the microphone turned on and the countdown began. My inability to be patient caused me to rip open my envelope before the countdown even finished. Inside was a red University of Denver engraved luggage tag and on the inside it said: University: Pablo de Olavide, Sevilla, Spain. This was where I was going to be spending the beginning part of my junior year: study abroad.
The rest of the event was filled with elation as everyone ran around to friends learning who was going where and if they knew anyone who would be joining them on their program. I was lucky to find some friends who would be joining me in my studies in Spain - it was a perfect balance of knowing I had friends who would be there to support me if needed, but I also knew that I could have the chance to meet new friends and create my own experiences.
My honest statement about study abroad is that it’s exciting, nerve-racking, and hard all at the same time. The University of Denver prepared me for the possibilities of culture shock and the challenges we may face when going abroad, but what they didn’t cover is: no one has a perfect experience, but that does not mean study abroad is not worth it.
In my first several weeks of settling into Spain I went through a surge of emotions - both negative and positive. I, a person who can struggle with change, had a hard time adjusting to the city around me. The more I look back on my experience the more I learn it wasn’t the city itself, but my own worries that had limited me in the beginning. The important thing to understand is that it is okay to be nervous and it’s okay not to enjoy every moment of abroad, but expectations can limit you as well. I always like to be in the know and to expect what comes in the future (despite this being impossible). My expectations of Spain and my program had limited me when I fist arrived. My assumption was that my living situation would be a certain way, I would make amazing friends right away, and everything would be amazing and easy. While all of these did happen for me, it did not happen right away. Much of being abroad is understanding change and learning that it takes time to settle in. The expectation I had made me stressed when I “wasn’t having fun” or “tired and not able to experience everything."
I feel that this is an important experience that many students should understand when entering a new environment, whether that is college, study abroad, or something else. Abroad taught me to live in the moment and appreciate each moment I experienced, but it also taught me that not every moment is amazing and it is okay that you don’t experience everything.
This advice came in handy once I began traveling with my roommate and best friend, Zina. We travelled all over Europe together and created lasting memories. Our mindset was to enjoy our time together in the new city (and also to consume an endless amount of food) while understanding there may be a few bumps in the road or that we may not get to experience everything. Having this mindset (instead of stressing and planning each event and historic site visit down to the last second) we were able to have a relaxing and positive memory of everywhere we traveled. No expectations equals no stress.
One of my favorite memories was Zina and I walking down a street in Dublin only to come across a small bakery. We each bought a whole loaf of bread and just cruised through the city eating away at our 12-inch rolls of bread. I have had many amazing memories from travelling with my roommate, including being able to visit other friends from the University of Denver who were also studying abroad. It may have taken time for me to adjust to my time in Sevilla, but I would not change where I studied or the experiences I had. Each moment -good and bad - was a learning experience for me and helped me learn a little more about myself. I am proud to call Sevilla my second home and I am proud of myself too.
- My next-door neighbor in Sevilla, Spain
- My roommate Zina
- University of Denver friends and me in Prague
Kelly Cortes - DU student, Class of 2019; Emergent Digital Practices Major