The Importance of Independence and Expansion While Abroad

By: Alex Smith

Studying abroad in a foreign country is among one of the most rewarding and intimidating experiences a student can go through. I wasn’t even sure I was ready to make a leap like this because I’ve always been comfortable with what is around me and scared of change. After arriving in Sevilla, I can say that studying abroad is one of the best ways a student can grow and gain perspective. 

I am studying abroad in Seville, Spain through the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program and living in a homestay. I arrived proficient in Spanish (so I thought), but I realized that when I entered a real Spanish speaking country much different from the Spanish I am surrounded by in the States, my confidence in comprehension and speaking plummeted, and I became a little more intimidated and discouraged during the first week. The thought of taking classes in Spanish at the University of Sevilla with Spanish students and Spanish professors terrified me because I did not understand Sevillian Spanish in the slightest. 

dome spain abroad

However, I realized when I looked at my semester for the long term, it was much more daunting to think about. I took it day by day and started to get better at Spanish each day with using it. I did not realize how much daily use can make an impact on the ability to speak it. Living in a homestay has forced me into the language in ways that make me constantly uncomfortable, but for that I am lucky. I typically like to be comfortable and surrounded by friends all the time in my daily life back in the States but being here I have forced myself to be more independent and not find my American friends to hang out with in the city, but to rather walk around and explore alone, or approach locals on the streets. After the first time you do this, each time will get easier. 

Read More: The 6 Best Places to Learn Spanish Abroad - CIEE

I have gained a new perspective walking through the streets alone, journaling by the river at sunset, sitting in cafes and reading or people watching. I am not used to being alone, but these independent activities in a new country make me feel like I’m really here and I’m really doing it, and it gave me confidence to try my Spanish every day with locals and test the waters with something intimidating each day. 

flag street spain

I entered a bar and was the only one in there, so I sat up at the rail and got into this 2-hour long conversation in Spanish with the owner. It’s as simple as that! We became friends, and by doing that, you can have many more accessible ways to the language. There is nothing to lose when approaching the locals!!!! My best advice. 

I have only been here for 2 weeks and have already gained a new perspective about going abroad, all through the independent experiences I have forced myself to do. I encourage everyone trying to learn a new language to do a homestay because it does not only immerse you into the language, but the culture and the way of life as well! You will appreciate that your host country is so different from your home, and you will gain perspective and expand your knowledge about the world. I could not be happier here, and by being independent and making this experience my own, I allowed myself to realize I’m so content early on, rather than near the end.