It’s been a few days since the Temple in Spain Summer program ended. Leaving felt sudden. One moment I was studying for exams and hanging out with friends. The next moment, I was at the bus station, preparing to leave the city for good. Since then, I’ve been catching up on some of the latest Netflix releases and taking some very long naps. I’ve needed to decompress after my month-long adventure in Spain. Like I’ve said before, studying in Oviedo was an incredible experience, but it was also mentally exhausting. Thus, I need a few days to relax.
Luckily, I’ve had some time to reflect on my experiences in Oviedo. I’ve thought about the wonderful opportunities I’ve had, the chances I took, and the things I would change if I could do it all over again. I’m sharing some of these thoughts to (hopefully) improve future study abroad students’ experiences.
First, the highlights.
The ability to visit Spain as a student, rather than a tourist, deepened my cultural understanding. I got to stay in one location for a month and learn about the specific workings of Spanish life. By the time I left Oviedo, I felt more like a local than a tourist. I was a regular at multiple cafes, knew my daily commute from memory, and could more or less navigate the city without a map.
Taking classes at Universidad de Oviedo allowed me to meet students from around the world. I built friendships and learned Spanish with students from completely different cultures than mine. Weekly excursions, organized by La universidad de Oviedo, helped me get acquainted with some of the most important historical sites of Asturias.
Living with a host family helped me to get accustomed to life in Spain quickly. My daily schedule followed that of my host mother: breakfast in the morning, a late lunch, then dinner around 9. Meals with my host family allowed me to ask questions about Spanish culture, practice speaking Spanish, and generally process the events of the day.
Next, the chances I took.
Living in Spain allowed me to have once-in-a-lifetime experiences almost every day. From cooking traditional meals with my host mother to visiting Gothic cathedrals and meeting the nuns there, my experiences in Spain cannot be replicated.
While in Oviedo, I went out of my way to have conversations with locals. Sometimes, these conversations were embarrassing or unfruitful (for example, when I forgot the word for homework when talking to my professor); other times, I successfully had conversations in Spanish and learned something new about Spain.
I attempted to immerse myself in Spanish culture while living in Oviedo. So, when I was invited somewhere with my host mother, I generally tried to go. That led me to explore beautiful parks, visit stunning cathedrals, and learn about traditional Spanish festivals.
Finally, missed opportunities.
While in Spain, I sometimes felt overwhelmed. I turned down a few opportunities to travel with friends and visit tourist sites. Now, reflecting on my experience, I recognize that I should have taken those chances to experience something new.
Spain pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I’m happy with my choices during study abroad: I learned new things, met new people, and became familiar with a new country. I learned to take risks and try new things.
In a few weeks, I will return to Temple to take classes with a renewed sense of adventure and confidence in my abilities. I look forward to applying the life lessons I have learned while abroad to my major courses.