Name: Lindsey Forbes
Program Location: Bilbao, Spain
Program Term: Spring 2014
1. Why did you choose the program that you did?
I chose the program based off the recommendation of another alumnae. I knew I wanted to go somewhere where I could find adventure, culture, and beauty in everything around me. For me, that was the Basque Country. There is hiking and surfing as well as nightlife and a strong sense of community.
2. If or when you study abroad again, where would you like to go? Why?
In a heartbeat: Bilbao. I have never found a place the encompassed so many of my interests. Basque Country is so beautiful and the people there are among the best in the world, it’s ridiculously safe but there’s never a dull moment.
3. What are some of your favorite highlights from your time abroad?
Teaching with the TABC program was one of the highlights of my life. Throw yourself into a classroom full of 16 year-olds and you should be expecting the worst but I was lucky enough to come out with some of the best memories.
I also will forever cherish the quickness of friendship with the locals. One night I’m meeting someone at a concert the next day I’m hiking the highest peak in Bilbao with them.
Confidence. I don’t know how anyone could come home from this experience being anything but confident. You traveled the world. You lived in a country where you didn’t speak the language. You did it, you survived and you thrived. Plus, you’ll have an interesting story for any job interview, guaranteed.
5. What were some of the special/unique things you were able to do or see?
I was able to visit a Txoko which is a private Basque Club where traditionally men would cook and gather together and that was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I was also able to hike many mountains and see different views of the ocean from so many different cities. I can’t get over the fact that five minutes walking distance from your house and you find a nightclub, the ocean, and a mountain, it’s just incredible.
6. What was a funny cultural experience?
The first time I talked to my students about food and drink customs was absolutely hysterical. They were shocked at the hours we eat as well as the fact that alcohol is not permissible on the streets. They were so astounded and I had never considered what a difference this would make. I heard so many stories about people who visited the states and got stopped by police, it was quite comical.
7. What did you learn about yourself?
What didn’t I learn? I learned how self sufficient I actually am, you have to. You’re traveling through countries where you don’t speak the language, you’re dealing with situations that would never occur in your daily life, and you’re fairly disconnected from the rest of the world. It’s a surreal situation where you get to be you, not what your friends see, not what your parents want, just you. That’s how you find yourself.
Studying abroad taught me how to calm down, you can’t control everything and you’re never going to be able to, you can only control your reaction to the situation. If you’re not flexible, you’re going to struggle, you may stress out and you probably won’t enjoy the opportunity as much as you should. It’s important to just trust yourself and adapt.
I’m also amazed at my level of confidence. I feel so accomplished for living in the situation I did and I’m so proud of the program I was in and the things I did and it sounds weird, but I feel like I’m a more interesting person.
9. What’s one thing you would have done differently?
I definitely would’ve immersed myself more in the culture. I should’ve done a host family. I should’ve taken the cooking class as well as the field trips. But hey, that just meant I had to work a little harder to find those customs and that knowledge that I was missing.
10. Now that you’re home, how has study abroad impacted your life?
I’m not going to lie, since I just got home, life is almost depressing because studying abroad is a high I can’t even describe. However, the one thing I’ve learned is you need to constantly explore and learn to appreciate everything around you, because believe it or not, it’s amazing. I’m also so much more aware of everything around me and how some little things really don’t matter.
11. How many years did it/will it take you to graduate?
Five, partially because I chose a program that had nothing to do with my major and mainly because I switched my major and have focused more on my journey than the end goal.
I took a job as an orientation guide leading freshman orientation during the summer and I’m just focusing on school and planning my next trip abroad. I’m not sure if studying abroad again is in the cards for me, but I know traveling is.
13. What, in your opinion, are the biggest myths students believe about study abroad?
I think students think it’s out of reach. Like looking back I never thought I was the kind of student that could go abroad. But all walks of life study abroad… and I mean all. I think students are too quick to rule it out but I think college is almost a waste if you don’t.
Of course the finances play a role too. I’m not going to say going abroad is inexpensive, but it’s not unmanageable and there are even ways to make sure you’re saving the most money. I even had to opportunity to make money while abroad so there’s always a way.
14. What advice would you tell students trying to decide whether or not to study abroad?
That’s not even the decision. The decision is where to go. Nobody ever regretted traveling especially while you’re young and have the time and freedom to do so. Make an informed choice, but you will never look back and wish you hadn’t gone.
Click through to find out more about the Bilbao, Spain program!