Whitman Voices

Introduction

Studying Abroad Reflection: Experiencing the World with Your Friends

Studying Abroad Reflection: Experiencing the World with Your Friends

Coming into college, I always knew I wanted to study abroad and experience different cultures firsthand. The only real question about going abroad came when I had to decide where I actually wanted to study. After speaking to a lot of my upperclassmen friends as a first year and second year student, I heard an overwhelming amount of support for the Madrid and Hong Kong programs. I knew if I was going to spend this much time away from home and outside of the United States, I’d want to be with my friends to have the best experience possible. After one friend in my group said he wanted to study abroad in Madrid during the Fall, all of a sudden, the rest of us decided to do the same thing. I have friends who went abroad by themselves and had the time of their life, but I personally couldn’t imagine a better abroad experience without all of my best friends being there with me.

While abroad, I learned quite a bit in the classroom, but nothing close to all the knowledge I gained by experiencing a multitude of different cultures. Just to show the scope of the amount of cultures I saw, I’ll list all of the different cities I traveled to. In order, I went to: Murcia, Melilla, Morocco, Madrid, Porto/Lisbon, Munich, Dublin, Prague, Toledo, Barcelona, Rome, Budapest and Vienna. Yes, all the traveling was a bit tiring, but walking around all of these different cities, eating local food and communicating with their societies were some of the best times of my life. I learned to scuba dive, I zip lined for the first time, I started to appreciate seafood, I brushed up my very amateur Spanish and much more.

Something special about studying abroad is that while you do all these fun things, you still get to see the application of your in-class learning right in front of your eyes. I learned about the Spanish Healthcare system during tense periods of elections, the business behind soccer during the beginning of the UEFA Champions League, the Earth’s changing biosphere right before the COP25 Climate Change Conference in Madrid and the different impacts being made on the Mediterranean Sea as we traveled between southern Spain and Northern Africa during the busiest 10 days of my life. 

The four months I spent in Europe was an experience I will hold dearly for the rest of my life. I can’t say that I will ever live next to a fantastic bakery with a great friend and two Spanish host parents while having authentic Spanish meals every night ever again. I learned how to travel on planes/trains/buses, coordinate trips, live with different people and quickly adapt to different cultures. I recommend studying abroad to everyone. I would gladly go back to Madrid or any other study abroad program in a heartbeat, and I hope everyone can gain this type of cultural experience at some point in their lives.

Mark Weiss
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