There is so much to say about traveling abroad. In fact, I now have so much more to say than I would have two weeks ago. Everywhere I have been in this beautiful world has changed my life immensely and have turned me into who I am today. Although, before now, being out of the country meant being on a mission trip. Today, I am in Salamanca, Spain(soon to be heading to Madrid) studying abroad for a few weeks. Let me tell you, no matter the reason, from missions work to studying, not being a native in a place will change you.
When I signed up for this opportunity in Spain, I had no idea what I truly did sign up for. As I sit here now, it’s pretty cool to reflect on how much of a blessing it is to travel and try new things. Coming to a country that speaks the tiniest of English, living in a home that speaks zero English, and meeting new people that all know a different language; this experience is nothing short of crazy. But, it happens to be the best crazy I have experienced for a long while.
In my Spanish class here, there are 3 Chinese students, a South Korean, and a Belgian. These classes are to solely learn the language daily from 9:00-2:00, but it is also learning about all of the cultures in the room, while talking in Spanish. If you would have asked me a few weeks ago, I couldn’t have told you that it is prohibited for students in China to have boyfriend/girlfriend until after graduation. Or that the term “homeschool” is completely crazy to everyone, except the USA. Or maybe the fact that Belgium really, truly, does have the best chocolate in the world.
So, this is me, Madison Rene’ McGlade, encouraging you to step out of your comfort zone and become a foreigner.
Traveling will teach you so much about culture. Once you are immersed in a new place, you pick up on what they do and eat and sing and all the other cool things that happen there. If you want to learn about a country, go. This is how you learn, and you cannot find this in a history book. In fact, you can’t find anything close, sorry teachers.
This is how you make memories. The things you see, the people you meet, the pictures you take, anything and everything. The days that you will remember the most are the days that contain new adventures. The moments when you did something new and had the time of your life. “Traveling leaves you speechless and turns you into a storyteller.” From mountains, to rivers, to orphanages; these are the things you will keep in your mind forever. The more the adventures, the better the memories.
You’ll have no idea where you are quite a bit of the time, and it’s awesome. “Being lost in the right direction” is what I like to call it. We aren’t driving on the same roads, going to the same job or daily coffee shop; we’re exploring. Then, getting off track leads you to a new destination. There is so much to see and so much to learn that being lost is, in an essence, the best thing you can be. The clock doesn’t matter when you’re having the best trip of your life.
You will meet some of the coolest humans you have ever come into contact with. The friends I have met here(Belgium, Holland, Spain, France, Florida 🙂 , ect.) are people that I will forever remember. I am already dreading leaving this beautiful country because the last thing I want to do is leave these people that have so quickly become a large part of my life. Hearing their stories, learning about their home, and listening to their accent that they think is “boring” are what make these last few week’s conversations, some of the best conversations of my life. Living with a Chinese, a British, and Maria(the best host mom on this side of the ocean), has been quite the ride. But, I must say that the friends that I have made thus far will forever be the best part of studying abroad. These aren’t just amigos, these are lifelong friends.
You will gain independence. Mom and dad won’t be behind you and planning out where you’ll go everyday- as awesome as that was. Mom and dad actually drop you off at the airport and trust that you will, eventually, figure it all out. And, of course, mom and dad are always right. You figure it out. You don’t worry about where you have to be tomorrow, or even tonight. You do what you want to do, go where you want to go, and get there however the heck you can get there. You, truly, don’t have any rules. You don’t depend on others, but on yourself. At the end of the day, you’re the only one that knows where you sleep; from hostel to host family.
You will see things that are unique to the place. From mountain ranges, to museums, to the itty bitty cities close by. “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure some of them are dirt.” Don’t be lazy. You aren’t there forever. You must take the opportunity to see something new every chance you get.. And you can’t forget to take pictures. In fact, ask the other tourist walking past to take your picture(Or just hand them the camera and point, English isn’t universal, friends.). Go outside, look at tourism books, get on Pinterest. Whatever you do, go somewhere that will blow your mind, and see to all the sights you may never have a chance to see ever again. “When you’re hundreds of thousands of miles away from home, spontaneity and adventurousness are your best friends.”
You will learn more about yourself. Throwing yourself into a completely new environment will help you to figure out what you’re good at, and what you’re not so good at. Being abroad will help you realize so much about this, and you will build off of that for the rest of your life. Of course, we don’t know where we belong if we do not adventure. Maybe you were born in America to grow old in Senegal.
You will have a global mindset. As I said, what you learn are not things you can learn in the classroom. Having a global mindset helps you understand the world and circumstances on every continent. Change your worldview, being bias should’t be a thing. Opening your eyes means opening your mind.
It is absolutely beautiful. The churches, the streets, the people, the clothing, the architecture, literally everything is so fabulous. Even the food, if your tastebuds are into new things. But really, the sights you will see and the places you will go are truly gorgeous.
Finally, it changes you. Studying abroad or simply going to a foreign country will change your values and overall self. You will expand your comfort zone. You will see your culture through a new lens. You will pick out differences that you had no idea existed. No matter where or why, you will experience changes. And, personally, I think that’s the coolest thing ever.
The consensus that I have come to is that adventures are the best way to learn. Learning a language, learning customs, learning streets and new places, learning history, learning how to communicate with others from the other side of the world, learning the daily life of a new place- it is absolutely insane. It is the type of insane that everyone needs to take part in.
God made this earth so diverse, and every country is so much different than the next. Coming to Spain will forever be one of the best experiences of my life. I have learned so much more than just Spanish, it’s mind blowing.
So, start the piggy bank. I pinky promise you, it will be worth every single penny. Become a foreigner. Go & do.
I triple dog dare you, because I don’t want anyone to miss this.