I woke up this morning and realized we’re about halfway through the program– almost two weeks of classes complete, with two full weeks remaining. My thoughts and feelings that have occurred during this “mid-program” week have been all over the place, and if that’s happening for you while abroad, I have some suggestions on how to manage the anxiety and continue enjoying the rest of your program!
While I was going through this week and processing the mixed feelings about being halfway done with my study abroad experience, I noticed that there were some recurring themes and questions that appeared in my nightly journaling. Below I’ve listed the thoughts that could be common or shared with others, and the strategies I’ve implemented to help readjust my thought process, express gratitude for the last three weeks, and make the best of the two weeks I have left!
- It’s been three weeks since I last saw my friends, but I’m also not ready to leave Spain in two weeks– how do I manage these mixed feelings?
Chat with other students in the program– chances are you’re not alone in this situation. I spoke with my peers when I found myself feeling conflicted about missing my friends while also not necessarily wanting to return home so soon. A few expressed that they had similar feelings, while others who could not relate still were able to empathize and talk through the feelings with me. These chats were very constructive and I felt supported instead of the feelings of uncertainty and confusion that had been consuming me prior to speaking with them.
Another strategy I used was to call my loved ones. I had previously limited my contact with people at home to help me focus on the experiences in Spain, and to lessen the potential of home-sickness. This week, I called my best friend and caught up on the last two and a half weeks of life– it was really refreshing and exactly what I needed. She reassured me that although I miss my friends now, it’s important to focus on language acquisition, immersing myself in the culture and having fun with my peers in Spain; my friends will be there when I get back to Philadelphia, but this time in Spain is a 5-week experience, and I should make the most of it!
Finally, if you haven’t already, start souvenir shopping for friends and family! This helped me think about how I could share little pieces of my experience in Spain with those I loved at home once the program was over. I found it to be a really good way to balance the bittersweetness of being away from loved ones while also wishing that departure wasn’t so soon.
2. Exams are approaching and projects are being assigned– how do I balance class and outside class activities with what feels like such limited time?
For this one, I decided to get some advice from our program director, Jaime. At one of our “Jaime Dinners” (every Thursday night the entire cohort sits down for a meal with Jaime), I asked his opinion on how we should prioritize our time moving forward. He of course emphasized the importance of attending class, but he also explained that engaging with the culture and people of Oviedo and Spain outside of class was just as important as the in-class experience. This advice helped me gain perspective on the structure of our program. The university has intentionally set up our classes to be intensive so that we learn as much as possible in class, and then have plenty of time to go out after and practice in the real world. Classes last from 9:30am-2pm, and then afterwards we are free to do what we wish. For some of us this looks like sitting in a cafe and chatting with locals; for others it could be a trip to El Parque de Invierno, a huge park behind the university dorms, or one of the countless beaches near Oviedo; and for some other students it meant engaging in the activities the University of Oviedo planned for our cohort each Tuesday and Thursday to assist us in bridging the gap between learning Spanish and culture in class, and experiencing it in the real world.
3. Our departure date is looming– how can I fit in all of the things I want to do before we leave?
When I first began thinking this thought, I immediately sat down with my journal. I took 30 minutes to map out the things I’ve already had the opportunity to experience and wrote some gratitude statements about how thankful I am to have done them. This helped me put in perspective just how much I truly have done, and I felt much less stress about fitting a million experiences into my last two weeks. Then, I moved on to making a list of all the things I have yet to experience and ranked them by importance to me. Some of these items were foods I wanted to try, others were places I wanted to visit, and the rest were goals I had for my language acquisition and engagement with the people here. This was really useful moving forward as I planned my excursions on weekends and after class, and it considerably decreased the stress I had originally felt about fitting in meaningful experiences before departure.
4. I’m stressed about language acquisition– am I doing enough?!
This is something I would guess everyone experiences at some point on an immersive experience like the Temple in Spain program. I found myself thinking and stressing consistently about my progress over the course of our program, so I implemented numerous strategies to help me feel less anxious.
One of the first things I decided to do was constantly change my scenery. To break up my days and engage with the people and culture of Oviedo in as many ways as possible, I would take walks around center city, sit in the park to do my homework, go to a beach, sit on the terrace of the dorm to do my homework or sit in a cafe. Each day I tried doing something different so that I was practicing both my speaking and listening skills in Spanish.
I also was sure to jump head-first into the culture! I tried things I never thought I would, embraced the customs of Ovitenses and went to as many different Spanish restaurants and bars as I could. Although I do not like seafood, I tried some at one of our Jaime dinners since it’s such a staple in Spain, and specifically in Oviedo. I tried new drinks, learned Oviedo-specific words and phrases and tried saying them myself, and avoided places that I could visit if I were in the States.
Finally, I made sure to try new and challenging activities to see just how far I was able to push myself linguistically. I went to the movie theater with some Temple students to watch Black Widow in Spanish without subtitles, started journaling in Spanish instead of English, intentionally sat and made friends with the Spaniards that lived in the dorms with us, and did my homework for class without using any outside resources. This last strategy is what I noticed has helped me the most in my language acquisition, and it’s also been the most fun and rewarding part of my program so far.
If you find yourself feeling these things any time during your study abroad experience, try some of these strategies or make some of your own! I have found them to be extremely effective in decreasing stress and allowing me to realize the full potential of my language skills!
Thanks for following my journey in Oviedo; I’m excited to keep sharing my experiences with you all. Stay tuned for my next post– nos vemos!