Lessons from My Study Abroad

Studying abroad in Seville has definitely prepared me to exceed professionally, academically, and personally. Reflecting on my mentality before leaving the United States to now, I can notice a drastic change on my outlook on things and situations. It’s funny to think that the only aspiration I wanted out of this experience was to become more fluent in Spanish and I have received years of wisdom, knowledge, and confidence in aspects of life I did not even realize I needed to sharpen.

From kindergarten until now, I have attended predominately African American populated schools. In this semester, I was the only student of color in my classes. “I cannot mess up, I cannot be the weakest link.” was what I used to tell myself. I felt like I was representing the entire African American undergraduate population and I could not appear less than my peers. I had to let these thoughts go and tell myself that I am taking on a journey not so many students like me are able to (yet) and that I am doing my best. This semester has really broken down my weakness of being a perfectionist. As long as I did my best and learn from my mistakes, I can only up from here. I have always been a optimist but after this semester, I have learned to count my blessings one by one. From arriving with no luggage to not being able to board flights, I have seen it all. I am able to think faster when unexpected situations present themselves. Budgeting and trip organizing are also key skills I have also picked up along the way.

Communicating is vital to progress. Whether it is for social activism, business negotiations, or clarity, communications is how we get from point A to point B. I will never forget how, when I first arrived to Seville, I asked my host father if he spoke English and he said no. From then on, every conversation was Spanish or nothing at all. At first I did not speak as much, but with growing confidence and vocabulary, my host family and I have shared memorable, comical, and interesting conversations. I have always had an interest in Spanish but after spending a semester in Spain, I love the language and the idea of communicating in multiple languages. To speak to someone in their native tongue is essentially showing interest in their culture. I never thought I would grow fluent in Spanish based on my education prior to studying abroad. My teachers were great, but if you don’t use it you lose it. I am now able to confidently read, write, and speak Spanish. I plan to keep this proficiency through keeping in contact with my Spanish friends, listening to Spanish music, and having Spanish subtitles on movies and television shows.

This semester I challenged myself to obtain an internship, professional development opportunities, scholarships, and a student government position while abroad. I was not going to let opportunity pass me by because I was an ocean away. I am fortunate to say I will be interning with Fox 4 in Ft Myers, Florida and I have been elected as Student Government Association (SGA) Secretary for 2018-2019 academic school year. Obtaining these opportunities was not easy. In running for SGA, I had two students running against me. Not being on campus can make or break a campaign. With my strong and dependable campaign team and my reputation on campus, I became one of few students to win such a prestigious position while studying abroad. This experience, along with coordinating interviews for professional development opportunities and my internship, has strengthened my organization and critical thinking skills. I had to have the answer to my questions before I asked the questions. I had to be flexible and strong standing because it would be so easy to forfeit these opportunities since I was abroad. I was not going to let that hold me back. I know if I can get this much completed while abroad, I can tackle anything that comes my way now.

I was only supposed to complete some credit hours and learn a little Spanish while abroad. Instead I have gained life-long skills, relationships, and confidence. If I could restart this semester, I may have started by hitting the grown running on Spanish. I was so afraid to be wrong or sound stupid. Nothing is stupid about trying. I see the fruits of my labor now. I only hope my experience influences more students to go abroad and not let anything defy to determine their success and future.

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