I hope this does not surprise anyone, but Europe is much colder than California. I witnessed this firsthand four months ago when I arrived in London. I had just flown into the coldest winter that I have ever experienced in my life.
Fast forward a few months to a nice spring day in Barcelona. The sun was out, I saw the beach and I was feeling like it was a hot summer day in San Diego. This was the first time that I had felt like this since I was in Europe. Up until then, I was still wearing my jacket every time I went outside. I thought that I had finally found some good San Diego like weather. Then I checked my phone for the temperature. It was 60 degrees outside (15 degrees Celsius). I was born and raised in Southern California where cold is anywhere under 70 degrees (21 degrees Celsius), but now I was outside in a t-shirt basking in the warmth!
I had become European.
So, this whole post will not be about how I have dramatically changed my definition of what hot and cold weather is. However, it illustrates a big part of what happens when you study abroad: You change. This experience has the ability to make you an entirely new person. When you live in a new country, you will be exposed to new cultures, food and ways of living that will inevitably have an effect on you. Through this yearlong experience in Australia and France, I feel that I have become an entirely new person.
I would like to share some changes that I have noticed in myself:
- I Have Changed The Way I Speak: Living in France and speaking with French locals has really improved my ability to speak the language. When I first arrived in France, my only practice had come from classes I took in high school, but this semester has allowed me to better my understanding and my speaking ability. I am not the only one who has noticed; my girlfriend had noticed it too. She visited me in the beginning of the semester when I could order food, but when she visited this last weekend, she saw me having a full conversation with a stranger.As I write this, I feel that I look for the French word in my head before I go for the English word because it is what I am used to. I sometimes speak French to people I call back home and they cannot understand. Even if you go to an English-speaking country, you begin to speak like the locals. During my time in Australia, I picked up phrases such as “good on you” and “I’m keen to go out tonight.” It just goes to show that the months that you spend in a new place can change the way that you communicate.
- I Am More Independent: Before leaving for Australia, I was scared because I knew that I would not have the same safety net that I had while I was in San Diego. Growing up in Orange County, I was never far from family, and once I was at school, I was surrounded by great friends. However, when I got to Australia, I realized that the nearest person I knew was thousands of miles away and in an entirely different time zone. I was completely alone, and I had to figure out how to set up my new life by myself. I had always been an independent person, but this was a whole new level.The process was a crazy mix of fear and joy. There are also the trips that I did on my own. I am someone who absolutely hates being alone so the thought of traveling somewhere by myself was out of the question. However, I forced myself to travel by myself while I was abroad, and I survived. I found out that I could survive on my own which was something that I always doubted in myself.
- I Realized I Liked Things: This is where I start talking about food from around the world. While abroad, I realized Mexican food and sushi were not the only foods to obsess over. I have fallen in love with Indian, Lebanese, Tapas and Galettes to name a few. I had never given any of these foods a chance, but I made friends that introduced me to foods from their culture, and I found out I liked them.I have also found out that I really like the way that Europeans and Australians teach in their universities. They prefer to teach through practice above lectures which involve projects and examples from the real world. I have found that I thrive in this type of setting, and I wish that I could take this back to San Diego with me.Finally, I found out that I liked San Diego more than I thought. When I left for Australia, I was sick of San Diego, and I was even contemplating transferring to a new school because of how unhappy I was there. But you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Being abroad for a year now, I have found that I miss San Diego so much. I miss the city, the friends and even the school. I went from never wanting to go back to counting down the days until I return. That, I think, has been the biggest change in me. I have realized that even the greatest adventures I have done do not compare to the city I call home: San Diego.
My year abroad has made me a better person. It made me more mature, worldly, and grateful for what I have. I know that I have said it in previous posts, but I truly do believe that studying abroad has been the best experience of my life and I am so glad that I chose to spend my year in a way that will change my life forever.
Daniel Haberman is a marketing major. He is studying in Nantes, France during Spring semester.