Hello! My name is Lauren and I’m a student at Western Washington University, double majoring in English and Spanish and I intend to go to Law School when I’m done. I’m currently studying in Alicante, Spain for one year, and I’m excited to bring you along on this journey with me.
Alicante has been my home for just a little over four weeks now and since then I’ve experienced a wide arrange of emotions. Some to be expected and some not as expected. I love to travel, and if I can stay as long as I can in one place to soak up the culture and customs all the better, but this trip has been different in the sense that I can honestly say I’ve experienced culture shock here in ways that I’ve never experienced it before.
I’ve struggled with intense feelings of loneliness, isolation, and homesickness. These feelings are typical for students who study abroad, but to be honest, I was not expecting to experience them at all. Here are just a few ways I’ve worked to process my feelings.
At 31, I’m the oldest person in my program. It’s been difficult to make those meaningful connections, we all desire in community, with the other participants in my program, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. It means stretching the boundaries of my comfort zone and meeting other Spaniards in my age group, and practicing my Spanish along the way.
As the youngest of five kids, I have a lot of nieces and nephews that I miss dearly while I’m here. To help combat that I’ve started writing them letters and mailing out birthday cards. Taking the time to write them a note is a way I can spend time with them. I’ve already received a letter back since then!
In addition, I’ve signed up to tutor English. Twice a week I tutor three children privately, and twice a week I tutor at a local high school. My classroom has 17 children! It’s been a fun and new learning experience for myself. I’m also paid 10 Euros for each session, coming to forty Euros a week.
Which brings me to the not so fun, but totally necessary side of studying abroad. A budget. A huge source of my anxiety that exacerbated a lot of my earlier feelings was a sense of uncertainty with money. While I’ve applied to multiple scholarships and I’ve been fortunate enough to receive funding to studying abroad. I didn’t feel a sense of relief until I created a budget for myself. Why? Because it helped put my mind at ease and helped me prioritize my time here. For example, it’s much more important for me to travel around my host country and neighboring European countries than spend money on drinks. Drinking alcohol anywhere is expensive. This means that when I go out to dance and experience the nightlife here in Alicante, I don’t buy drinks, and I don’t eat out as often as some of my other peers do.
I’ve also joined a gym! WHY?! You might ask. Because even in the States I used running and exercising as a way to process my day or even prepare for my day. I tried running outside, but I kept slipping on the old limestone of Alicante, it was the safer choice to choose a gym, and honestly worth the investment in myself.
Filling my days with classes, tutoring, gym, and other social activities has helped me find my routine here in Alicante. A routine that if I’m honest, is very similar to the one I have back in the States. It’s beginning to feel more and more like home.
Somethings I’m looking forward to:
- I’m traveling to Italy to visit a friend of mine. She’s originally from Italy and we met in the U.S. years ago. I haven’t seen her in eight years. I’m excited to experience another European country.
- In November I’m going to do my first Spartan Run in Cordoba, Spain. It has 20 obstacle courses, most of them including mud, but this is a great way to stretch my Spanish and possibly meet other Spaniards who enjoy some of the same things as me. Wish me luck!