Studying abroad teaches life lessons

Alaina Rydzewski photoAlaina Rydzewski photoWhat I have learned in the first month of studying abroad: The sky is always blue, the metro always hot and sticky, and you can’t tell a local from an immigrant because immigrants are so numerous here.

I’m living in Barcelona, Spain, until mid-December. This concept has not sunken in yet. I realize I am here, far away from home, but the idea of living in Barcelona is so … awesome. So awesome that I still can’t come to terms with the fact that I am actually here.

And before I know it, I will be on my plane heading back to the U.S.

“Just blink,” I tell my boyfriend and family who want me home, “and I’ll be home—time passes by quicker than we think.”

I know this is true, yet I still long for home every day and count down the days until I return. The things I miss most aren’t things (although I now have a deeper appreciation for hot showers), but people and what makes home home.

Of course I miss my family, my boyfriend and my friends. But I also miss the smell of an autumn breeze, leaves on the ground and driving my car. I miss walking around campus and even working on the Merciad on Tuesday nights!

Don’t get me wrong, I love being here and I am having fun every day, but there is something about not only being away from home, but also being away from America that I can’t get over.

People here, such as my host mom, tell me that I am very brave to have done this. At first, I didn’t understand, because in my mind, studying abroad was not something I simply wanted to do, but something I had to do—how could I ever expect to be fluent if I never studied abroad?

But as the days pass, I am beginning to understand. One day in August, I picked up and moved to a foreign country where I don’t speak the language fluently (yet), to live with people I don’t know and stay in a city approximately four times bigger than my hometown, where I have lived all my life.

Yeah, I guess that takes some courage.

Now I am here, trying to appreciate all the blessings life has given me thus far. This past weekend, I traveled to Madrid and Toledo, and on Halloween weekend, I will be in Seville. I also have plans to travel to Belgium, Greece and Italy in November! And I still have so many things to see and do in Barcelona.
Alaina Rydzewski photoAlaina Rydzewski photo
After being here a month, I have realized several things, some big and some small, some more significant than others. Appreciate being alive. Look at the world around you and say “thank you” every day.

The world is so much bigger than me and my petty problems, and compared to other people, I am the luckiest girl in the world. Just simply take the time to talk to your mom, your dad, your siblings — now that I can’t talk to them every day, I miss them that much more.

Finally, on a lighter note, when you visit a museum or other touristy site, always ask for the student rate. This has saved me at least 20 bucks thus far, as some places let students in free and most have a significantly lower rate for students.

The next two months are going to fly by for me, and before you know it, I will be back on campus preaching the wondrous advantages of studying abroad!