I’ve come to find that the study abroad experience has a dirty little secret. Maybe it won’t come as a surprise to some, but I feel that it’s something they leave out of all those colorful pamphlets.
If you’re like me, when you think of the term “study abroad” you get the image of a student eating a baguette in front of the Eiffel Tower, reading a book on a gondola in Venice, or maybe throwing up the peace sign at the Great Wall of China. Many have the idea that studying abroad will be one crazy adventure after the next, with every day filled to the brim with exotic, wild happenings.
What they don’t tell you on the study abroad flyers is that although you will have more than your fair share of exciting new experiences, you will eventually, at some point or another, get into a routine and begin to live a normal life. You’ll have classes, presentations, tests, and essays. You’ll stay up late doing homework that you put off all weekend. You’ll make trips to the groceries or devote almost half a day to doing laundry.
But you know what? I think that it’s not a bad thing. I think that the adrenaline-filled adventures are awesome (and I just booked my ticket to visit Patagonia!!!). I also, however, think that sometimes it’s the little moments, the small everyday victories that shape our experiences. Sometimes, it takes those quiet, unassuming times to truly process and internalize the beauty of the world around you.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing two sweet Wofford friends that stopped in Santiago before beginning a semester in Arica, Chile. I had the best time catching up and showing them around the city I love so much. As I walked around with them, explaining a few of the little idiosyncrasies of Chileans and showing them around some of my favorite streets, it hit me just how much this past month has impacted me. For the first time since I’ve been here, I realized how much more comfortable, confident, and at home I felt in this city that seemed so big and confusing a few weeks ago. In my time thus far, I never had some cataclysmic moment where I have thought “Yes! I know what I am doing here!” (and I know I will never be able to say that with 100% honesty). Instead, my growing confidence in this city has been a gradual accumulation of those little moments- getting the courage to navigate the public transportation alone, figuring out the layout and system at the grocery store, finally getting more accustomed to the perplexing Chilean accent, and the times where I let myself pause and take it all in.
So for my friends studying abroad both now or in the future, here’s to those beautiful little moments that truly shape our abroad experiences- from laughing over a cup of tea with your host mom, surviving your first oral presentation in a foreign country, or those instances when you allow yourself to slow down and appreciate just how much you’re learning.