Today, I reflect on my experience studying abroad in Seville, Spain this past spring semester. In case you haven’t seen previous posts, I have been living in Spain and studying with a communications program in the center of Seville. The experience was amazing and I am so grateful for all the people I met, things I learned and places I saw. I’m now back in the U.S. and ready to take on the unknowns of summer. I hope you all enjoy some of my final reflections from being abroad. If you would like more stories and details, I blogged over at Snapshots in Sevilla for the past several months!
And now, I’m so excited to reflect on the lessons I learned this semester living with views like this:
1. Patience. Patience with time and patience with people. Patience with yourself. Although I’m still in the process of learning how to be patient, so many things here in Sevilla exemplify what a patient life is. Whether we’re taking time at a café to talk to our friends, or having the patience to express my thoughts in Spanish, I’ve learned that slowing down, taking a look around you is so important. Hence, this next lesson.
2. Taking care of your environment and your surroundings is important. This lesson comes back from my time in Morocco. I was sitting at the table during lunch with four Moroccan students and their leader of their program, one professor and one friend from my communications program. Their leader, a man from Chefchaouen, Morocco (who could speak English, French, Arabic, Spanish and probably other languages too), began to talk to me (and the rest of the room) about nearly everything. The conversation started off with me asking what typical crops or products grow around Chefchaouen. He responded but then went to talking all about different topics like the environment, women’s rights in Morocco, religion, politics, relationships, food and other things. One line that stood out to me was, “How could you be a religious person, and not take care of your environment and your surroundings?”
This world is a gift, so I think we should treat it that way in everything we do. From cleaning up our rooms to organizing to recycling to conserving water and energy. In Spain, I probably used less water, less electricity and less resources. Everything was very simple to washing dishes to cleaning up the table after dinner. All these things–our surroundings, our daily lives–was at the forefront of my mind. I was conscious of them and conscience of the effects of my actions in this world.
3. We’re not supposed to be following a culture that follows Jesus. We’re just supposed to follow Jesus. I think sometimes we can be caught up in the unspoken, unrecognized sometimes, social norms of a church or community culture. Sometimes Christianity can be routine, sometimes it can be part of our to-do list. Sometimes we think we need to dress up for church. Or something else like that. It’s amazing how many different cultures celebrate and worship Jesus. But we have to remember we can’t follow the norms of a culture, without following Jesus himself.
4. Living abroad restores you. It makes you discover different passions, interests and people. It rids you of distractions from you own culture and lets you focus on what’s important in life. What are the common denominators that make the world go round? It offers perspective and cleanses you.
5. I think every moment that life gives us is an opportunity to chose love or to chose fear. I have definitely seen these opportunities and lived them. I have noticed an opportunity go by and how I missed my chance to love and gave into fear. Fear is a four letter word that kills, and living in another country is full of fear. But ironically, it’s also full of new opportunities and a courage you can’t really describe. Everything is new, everything is foreign—you are foreign. Yet in that, something is alive. New thoughts are created. New memories. New ideas. The world is no longer a simple life routine — it is life, living, breathing, wonderful, loving life. Full of fear, yet full of love.
Studying abroad is a weird thing. For those of you who have done it, you know what I mean. It’s weird to be abroad and just focus on the things and life around you. I’ve now gotten used to that, and it’s been amazing. My concept of home and life is a little tilted now, but I’m more so realizing that I’m more like a citizen of the world than a citizen of the U.S. or a student in Spain. The world is a gift to us, and seeing more of it just makes you feel like you know less, but makes you feel more open. I’m so excited to be a part of a life that’s open to culture, people, relationships, struggles, challenges, and change. And all the other little things that make us human. Thank you, Sevilla and the rest of the world, for being the biggest classroom of my life.