Choosing to study abroad is an important, even life changing decision. In my experience, choosing where to study took months of reflection, goal-setting, pros and cons lists, and late night conversations with loved ones in order to make the best decision for my academic and personal growth. As soon as I submitted the form to change my program from Mexico to Spain, it felt like all the puzzle pieces quickly fell into their place: my application was accepted immediately, my visa arrived with no issue, my plane tickets were booked exactly as I wanted them, and I believed it was finally time to sit back and let the stress from the past few months disappear as I spent afternoons eating tapas and drinking freshly squeezed orange juice. The first two weeks of my program were spent adjusting to the new culture and taking in all the beautiful sights Seville had to offer. It was easy to forget about the life I had left behind until summer job applications and course schedules for senior year slowly started to trickle into my everyday life, mixing in with the daily decisions of what to do and where to go, how long to study tonight, what time to call home, and what gifts were worth buying.
When preparing to study abroad, everyone will tell you to prepare for the new culture and to focus on the present, but it is incredibly hard to do so when you also have to juggle planning for your future once you are back in the United States. This for me has made it difficult to fully immerse into this semester because at the back of my mind I know that there are responsibilities waiting to be taken care of. As someone who is regularly indecisive, the fear of choosing wrong is a strong one. In a world where our choices are limitless, how can we know for sure which choice is the right one?
Because of this, one of the unexpected outcomes of studying abroad has been a newfound way of asserting myself and going for the things that I want. I was forced to accept that I can only make the best decision for myself at this precise moment, and as scary as that is, it has also provided me with comfort and some freedom. I realize that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, that I will never again be able to travel around Europe at a young age and without worrying about paid time off or family obligations. In pursuing the things that I want and making the decisions that I know are best for me, it has helped narrow down my priorities, accelerating those important decisions that will impact what I do when I’m back home. I still fear making the wrong choice, or wonder if I’ll regret my decisions later on, but day by day I reassure myself that I made the best decision I could with the knowledge I had, and it has been worth it.
Pictured below: La Alhambra in Granada, Spain. I was nervous about traveling outside of Seville on my own, but decided to take the risk and organize a hectic day trip, one that was absolutely worth it.