New countries, new friends, same Simpson Experience

New countries, new friends, same Simpson Experience

Ask almost any student that has gone on a May Term or semester-long trip abroad, and they will tell you the same thing: study abroad is loads of fun. They’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I’ll tell you exactly the same thing, but I’ll also tell you a little bit more. Study abroad IS awesome. One of the best decisions I’ve made since coming to Simpson was my decision to study abroad in Spain for a semester. I mean, what better place is there to spend the worst part of a bitterly cold Iowa winter than southern Spain? I won’t lie, I definitely enjoyed sending those e-mails to friends and family saying the temperature difference was 30-40 degrees warmer.

Being abroad opened lots of doors for me. I could travel. I could wander around and find random new shops and cafes to try out, and I could meet lots of new people. It was amazing. But there were definitely aspects of being in a foreign country for so long that I never had considered.

Travel while studying in Spain was really easy. It was basically as simple as going to an internet café, paying for an hour or so of internet time, picking a destination and buying my tickets. One of the great things about the class schedules during my semester abroad was that the weekends provided a lot of opportunities to travel. And trust me, I took advantage of the opportunities as often as my bank account would allow. I traveled to Gibraltar to play with the monkeys. I spent a weekend in Hamburg, Germany with a friend, and I even spent a weekend in Brussels, Belgium- specifically for the waffles and chocolatem, no lie.

Going out was really easy as well. There were plenty of opportunities to find new cafes and bars, hang out at clubs and even just wander around to find a cultural event. One of the greatest chances I had to go out on the weekend was for an annual festival called Feria de Abril. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends, not to mention learn a few traditional dance moves. Trust me. I have the pictures to prove it.

Alright, now stay with me for a second. I’m going to say something that may seem a little odd. The most important aspect of study abroad for me was the academic aspect. I know, it sounds crazy. But I learned so much. My Spanish skills are much improved, and I even got some insight into some very traditional aspects of the culture that a normal tourist wouldn’t begin to think about. For example, that bull-fighting thing people always get into a huff about? It’s actually a tradition that has roots going back to ancient societies as an important rite of passage. It’s not just about killing animals arbitrarily.

So my advice to anyone interested in studying abroad: DO IT! It’s a great experience, and you’ll learn a lot. And sure, go ahead, party, travel and have loads of fun – but don’t let that get out of hand. You’ll end up like that group of kids the Spain group encountered. And trust me, you don’t want to be like them.