I have two short months left in Barcelona and my oh my, all I ask myself is “where did the time go?” I know everyone says that time flies, but when one studies abroad time passes right before your eyes.
I am having mixed emotions about going home. Of course I am excited to see my family and meet two little new members in my family, but a part of me wants to stay here for just a little longer. I have a traveling itch that I cannot let go of just yet.
I have been fortunate to travel to different countries in Europe and Africa while I have been here, but I feel the need to continue to do so because every new place I visit is like a whole new world for me. The people are different in every country, even though most of the countries I have visited are European. They do not even seem as if they would be neighbors because each country is so unique. Now that my feelings are said, I want to take some time and give all my fellow readers and future travelers some advice about being abroad and traveling:
1. Open your mind and exit your comfort zone
Basically come into your new home without any attachments from home and let your mind, body and soul indulge itself in this new space. It may take some time to feel comfortable in a new setting, especially if the country’s culture is extremely different from yours. But, if you go in with an open mind, not thinking about the way you do things traditionally at home, it will be much easier to adjust. Making friends can be tough since some cultures may not be warm to meeting others. If that is the case, be the one to introduce yourself and bring out the best in others.
2. Attempt to speak the local Language
Whether your study abroad program is in foreign country where you do not speak the local language, or you just happen to visit a country where everything is foreign to you, try to speak even just one word from their vocabulary. If this is done in a charming way, the locals will accept you for who you are and then they will have an hour conversation with you, with questions about where you are from. I said the usual thank you, hello and goodbyes in French, Arabic, and Dutch as I traveled and I had some great smiles and long conversations come my way.
3. Do not be afraid of having admirers
You may think you are in a country where outsiders are usual, but if you are like me and you don’t look strictly American, people with stare at you with amazement and curiosity. I stopped keeping track of the countless times where people have stopped me in Barcelona to ask me where I am from. I used to be shy and nervous while people stared at me, but now I flaunt my culture and I am always proud to say I am a Mexican-American. One question from a local may result in three or four, but do not think of it as creepy. These locals are simply happy to meet international people and they are always grateful when you talk to them.
4. Eat! A lot!
Okay there might be some super fit people coming abroad, but when you are here do not worry so much about the calorie intake; enjoy every plate, one step at a time. I tried to be that “let me eat this and not that” girl, but truth is, I love to eat! Although we have a great variety of foods in America, nothing will compare to the original version from a certain country. I have doubted whether to eat some things or not, but then I think to myself, “when will I come back?” Life is too short to live by strict rules. Be good to your body, but also, let it be free to try new foods, even if they look odd. If you do this, then you get to say cool things like I did last year. I ate scorpions in China!
5. Be Spontaneous
I really enjoyed doing this on my own. Some days you will just find yourself sitting around or doing the same task such as homework and running around the block. But, why not have a spontaneous day and try something new? I am not one to go out on a school night, but when a local friend invited me to a dinner party near the beach on a Wednesday night, I said, “sure, why not?” Or the time I decided to dance with local African men at a festival in Morocco in front of a huge crowd. These are experiences that are not always available to us and these are experiences we will never forget. When you find yourself on repeat, go explore something. Whether it is a hike in a huge mountain somewhere, or a day on the metro, stopping at random places. This is life, this is happiness. Enjoy!