Amelia is one of our Arts Global Scholars, a scholarship program available for Bachelor of Global Studies students. Amelia went on exchange to Spain and shares some of the highlights of this experience.
I was fortunate enough to spend a semester abroad in Pamplona, Spain, studying at the University of Navarra. Like most exchange students, the weeks up to my trip were full of as much fear as excitement. Whilst I couldn’t wait to explore Europe and immerse myself in the reputable Spanish lifestyle, the concept of living in a foreign culture with people I didn’t know and a language I couldn’t speak made me apprehensive. Whilst tormenting at first, it was obvious that these challenges are what makes exchange such a valuable experience.
As an exchange student, I faced many obstacles throughout my trip – one being the language barrier whereby my lack of Spanish placed me in many awkward situations. Although many of my friends were also beginners in the language and the university ran classes in English, the locals did not conform to adapting to us (and rightly so). Initially, this made everyday tasks, such as shopping, very challenging. But this was not a problem – rather, it was a window for opportunity. By having this barrier, many of us were inspired to learn the language. Thus, I took a wonderful beginner’s course in Spanish and slowly became more connected with the local community. Not only did this promote a more authentic experience, but it provided me with an incredible skill which I will continue to study and use in the future.
Culture shock and language barriers were not my only source of apprehension. I was particularly nervous about the people I would meet and whether I would connect with them. This did not last long as I quickly realised all exchange students are in the same boat and are equally eager to make friends from all over the world. This places you in the most welcoming and approachable community, facilitating opportunities to meet people everyday. This was one of my favourite elements of exchange – I shared the most amazing memories with these people and at the same time learnt so much about their lifestyle and culture at their home.
Studying abroad was undoubtedly the most enriching experience of my life. Not only did it provide me with wonderful memories embracing a new culture with new friends, but it forced me to grow immensely and widen my perspective
Whilst new friends provide you with world-wide contacts, the university itself also plays a major role in flourishing your international perspective. An interesting component of studying abroad is that units are taught very differently to those at home – particularly if you are enrolled in subjects such as history or politics. For example, I had the opportunity to attend lectures delivered by Spanish, Bolivian, Cuban and Chilean politicians – all of which were highlights of my academic semester. These were incredibly interesting and I would have never experienced them if I had not studied abroad.
Finally, one of the best things about exchange is the opportunity to travel. Not only was I able to explore beautiful Spanish cities such as Barcelona, Seville and San Sebastian, but I could find cheap and easy routes to many other countries. Because of this, I was able to spend weekends in places such as Morocco and Portugal, as well as finish my semester backpacking around Europe. These travelling experiences with new friends were absolutely incredible and I will cherish them forever.
Studying abroad was undoubtedly the most enriching experience of my life. Not only did it provide me with wonderful memories embracing a new culture with new friends, but it forced me to grow immensely and widen my perspective. I am so thankful for such an incredible opportunity and I urge you all to pursue this adventure.