Study abroad students pose for a group photo with the city behind them
Category: Life in DC & Beyond, Student Blog

Title: Zehra’s Intro to Study Abroad

Author: Zehra (C'24)
Date Published: September 15, 2022

Culture Shock

As always, there are cultural differences that you notice when settling into a different country. There were some cultural customs that I learned or heard of before arriving in Seville, such as greeting with “dos besos” (kisses on each cheek) instead of a handshake or hug, or lunch being the big meal of the day followed by siesta (rest/nap) time. It took some time to adjust to these traditions as it is always easier in theory than in practice. There have been times where I reach out my hand initially to greet someone since that is what I am most familiar with, or would go for a walk at 4 p.m. only to realize that everything is closed for a few hours for siesta.


Homestay Experience

Living in a homestay has proven to be an extremely formative experience. I chose to study abroad because I want to be fluent in Spanish with confidence, and choosing to live with a host family really pushes you to do so. My host family does not speak English, and as locals they naturally speak fast and their accent is different from what I was used to. While it can be tough in the beginning because you are only listening, processing and speaking a language that is not your native tongue, in just three weeks I have seen how much my Spanish has improved both with listening and speaking. Further, you will always surprise yourself with how much you pick up in a short amount of time. Slowly but surely, I have begun to use a lot of colloquial terminology, speak using the vosotros form (a way of speaking informally that is only used in Spain) and even have started to make jokes in Spanish! It is strange yet exciting to notice how your brain changes and develops in a short time frame, as there are times where I realize that I am thinking in Spanish rather than in English!


A Whole New Level of Independence

The transition from high school to college was simultaneously daunting and eager. Classes with more rigor, making new friends and adjusting to a different environment and lifestyle are just a few examples of how we experience so much change. Well, the same goes for studying abroad, too. After two years of going through those rapid changes, I am experiencing it again, but on a different continent! I did not know anyone prior to my study abroad program, did not know what my homestay experience would be like and was unsure of what taking university courses in Spanish would be like. This transition, yet again, was simultaneously daunting and eager! Yet I feel as though I have built another level of confidence; I am more willing to say “yes” to anything and everything, whether that be trying new foods, attending an event, meeting people to hang out, etc.

Overall, I have loved the rollercoaster experience I have encountered in just three weeks. It’s a reminder to be open, be comfortable with being uncomfortable and live in the moment. Four years of college goes by quickly, and four months of being abroad goes by even quicker! With that being said, make the most of your experiences in every way possible!