Hello and welcome back to another thrilling episode of #LexieGoesAbroad !!!! Thanks for tuning in. Today’s topics include libraries, Spongebob, and gushing over the beauty of the human experience… all good things, all very much #onbrand. Let’s get started!
Spongebob Gets It
Out of all the frequently asked questions I get from people regarding my study abroad experience the one I absolutely hate the most is the surprisingly complex, “What all have you learned during your time abroad? Have any advice? Words of wisdom?”
It seems like a simple enough question, that would call for a decently simple answer. But for me, this question tends to create Spongebob-levels of anxiety, resembling the iconic scene of Mr. Squarepants attempting to articulate his educational experience at Mrs. Puff’s boating school in a 10-word essay, which results in an amazingly spectacular meltdown.
So whenever I get asked that question: “What all have you learned in Spain?” my mind typically goes into a Spongebob auto-pilot mode and is pretty much just a blankety, blankety, blank slate of anxious scrambling to find the perfect way in which to sum up my experiences abroad.
BUUUUUT even though I find it exceptionally difficult to answer this question, I do think it’s a valid and fair question to ask, and it’s definitely worth taking the time to think about. For that reason, I decided to spend a few weeks reflecting and taking notes on what all I’ve learned here in Spain/during my study abroad experience in general. Some of the things I’ve learned are silly and lighthearted, while others serve to highlight the importance of things like self-care and being kind to yourself while abroad.
So without further ado, here’s my list of things I’ve learned/observed thus far while living my fancy-foreign life. Enjoy.
What I’ve Learned Abroad
- That eating an entire baguette in one sitting is a thing that will happen, (multiple times a week) and it’s okay, so just let it happen. I mean, Oprah said it best and you can’t argue with Oprah.
- That your public library cards work abroad and online library catalogs are magical resources of wonder. UM YEAH FUN FACT, libraries have these wonderful things called digital catalogs and there are so many online books/movies/audiobooks available to download and it’s really STINKIN’ AMAZING. My lovely friend Rhoda clued me in on this glorious tidbit and it has saved my book-loving butt whilst being abroad. Guess who just finished binge-listening to the entire 1st half of the Harry Potter audiobook collection ??!?!? Stinkin’. Amazing.
- That traveling alone is a terrifyingly wonderful experience and everyone should experience it at least once. My father is not a fan of this one, but I have to highlight the next-level experience that is throwing some stuff into a backpack, booking a last minute flight, and setting off on a spontaneous solo trip for the weekend. There is just something so incredibly unique about that feeling of true independence and adventure you get while wandering through a new city, talking to new people, and (most importantly) learning new things about yourself. 10/10 would recommend.
- That children’s television is a great way to practice your language skills. Phineas y Ferb, Bob Esponja, Viva el Rey Julien, Hora de Aventuras … oh HECK yeah, that’s some quality content right there. It’s well-known that one of the best ways to practice a language is to expose yourself to the various types of media (radio, tv, movies) from that language. For me, children’s television is the perfect tool to practice my language skills because a) I am a 21-year-old child who genuinely enjoys the goofy and overly colorful nonsense found in such content and b) the vocabulary used in these shows is always pretty easy to comprehend/follow and makes for easy, stress-free viewing. YAY.
- That smiles are universal. OKAY YES I AM SORRY I KNOW THIS ONE IS CORNY, but seriously — a simple smile goes such a long way!!! There are no language barriers when it comes to spreading some kindness into the world with a friendly grin. (And also it makes for an easy cop-out response to when that little old lady in your apartment building is speaking rapid-fire Spanish to you as you walk up the stairs and you are completely lost, but still want to be polite 🙂)
- That investing in a sleep mask and earplugs was the smartest thing you’ll ever do. Airports are loud. And bright. And this tired lil bean just rly wants to sleep on this uncomfortable and cold tile floor because she’s a broke college student who could only afford the cheapest flight from RyanAir that leaves at 5:15 AM on Monday morning and she’s got class in 8 hours, but it’s fine, I’m fine, everything is fine.
- That it’s okay to spend the weekend at home. Study abroad is a whirlwind of events and trips and excursions — there’s always something happening and FOMO is so real, but so is your mental and physical health. Taking time to have a slow weekend or to be a lazy couch potato for a day or two is totally acceptable. In fact, some of my favorite study abroad memories so far have come from those “do-nothing” days spent with new friends, lazily meandering through the city streets and exploring our own “home” city.
- That things tend to have a natural way of working themselves out. This may be one of the biggest lessons studying abroad has taught me. Canceled flight? It’ll work out. Lost wallet? It’ll work out. Missed your bus home? It’ll work out. Problems with the Airbnb? It’ll work out. Traveling always has its ups and downs, and sometimes the downs can seem like the end of the world. But those downs tend to find a way to sort themselves out. Just take a deep breath, make the most logical decisions you can with the information you’ve got, and give it some time. Because in the end, it’ll all work out.
- That there are so many interesting, supportive, intelligent, and just genuinely great people you get the privilege of spending time with while you’re abroad. Before my study abroad, I never would’ve guessed just how much love and friendship I would find throughout my international adventures. Every day that I am here, I get to learn more and more about the world from wonderful humans who come from all walks of life. With such different backgrounds, it’s crazy to realize just how much can be shared in common — and that fact truly warms this old heart of mine.
- That your home university is pretty freakin’ great. Distance makes the heart grow fonder and wowie wow, I sure am fond of my burnt-orange, longhorn-loving, world-changing university. I miss you, UT — all 40 Acres of you. Thanks for sending me off into the world to learn and experience and grow so that I can bring back some cool knowledge to share with my fellow Longhorns. 🧡 I’ll see y’all in August.
This list is just skimming the surface of all the lessons, tips, and wisdom I’ve gained during this semester. And while I’ve only got just a little bit of time left in my study abroad adventures, I am sure that I’ll be learning a whole lot more in the weeks to come. So HAH! take that Mrs. Puff – I did learn something in boating school.
Onwards and upwards to new lessons, failures, and experiences.
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