Every second of the day, I am wishing I was back in Bilbao, surrounded by all the wonderful friends I made, sitting on the beach, practicing my Spanish with locals, and having not a care in the world. There is no way I could sum up my study abroad experience in a few, short words. It was an enlightening experience that allowed me to mature in ways I never thought were possible and see the world differently. As the days fly by, it’s easy to start forgetting the small details. The ones you always hoped you would remember, but just can’t because they were all memories you enjoyed in the moment. I look through videos and pictures every single day, just to jog my memory a little bit. It always brings a smile to my face.
The first week or so being back home in Reno, I felt relaxed and at ease. I no longer had to strategically pack my bag so it was under 50 pounds or worry about catching a flight. I was able to look back on my experience and think to myself, wow, did this really happen? I was in a state of true happiness, which is something I have always prayed for. I headed back to work, shared some of my experiences with my coworkers, and all of sudden, life fell back into place. It was almost like I never left. Coming from a constantly changing dynamic to one that stayed the same while I was away made me a little upset. I would be lying if I said I didn’t suffer from a mild form of depression after coming home. Or maybe just a severe case of reverse culture shock. Food that I loved before, no longer had that amazing taste. Clothes that I used to think were cute, are no longer in my closet. My tastes and interests have changed.
I get pretty sad when I come across people I haven’t seen in a while, and they don’t really care to hear about my experience. It was so awesome that I can’t help but talk about it all the time. Why wouldn’t anybody be as excited as I was? And the truth is, because they didn’t experience it themselves. That’s the cool thing about studying abroad. It is something special to you, and only you. Very few people get this type of opportunity in their lifetime, so I consider myself very lucky.
My friend and coworker, Sarah, studied abroad in Costa Rica this summer as well, and she is probably the closest I can get to reminiscing. We both had similar experiences and we talk about it all the time at work, even if it bugs our other coworkers. We were talking last week, and she said something that really stuck out to me. “It felt like a dream.” She couldn’t have said it any better. Sometimes I wonder if that was really me. It felt like I was a different person, in someone else’s body, perusing around Spain, by myself, and not being afraid to put myself out there. And honestly, I miss that part of me. I was truly outside of my comfort zone, and that’s how I want to be all the time. I no longer want to sit in complacency and wonder how life is going to turn out for me. I want to live in the moment, and live outside my comfort zone, because that’s where the most growth takes place.
I remember the exact day I left for Spain. I was in San Francisco with my parents because that’s where my group flight left from. We went to a Giant’s game the night before with some family friends and they wished me luck on my trip. About 4 hours before I had to hop on the plane, I had an anxiety attack. Suddenly I could no longer breathe. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was going into the unknown, without my parents by my side and I was scared out of mind. I began to text all of my friends back home, asking if I was crazy to be freaking out so much. My parents tried to calm me down at the hotel, telling me that this was my DREAM since middle school. I had to go. It was my chance to learn and figure it out for myself. Saying goodbye to my parents was the hardest thing I had to do. I was crying hysterically and couldn’t stop. As I tried to pull myself together and be strong, I noticed a girl not too far from me hugging her parents too. She kept telling them “I’ll be fine, I’ll be home before you know it!” I had a strange feeling this girl was going to the same place I was.
Sure enough, as I stood in line for security, she turned around and waved to me, noticing that I was wearing a USAC t-shirt. It gave me a sense of relief knowing that there was someone right here in front of me going through the same thing. I met her at the gate, and we started talking. She is also from Reno, and little did we know, we had mutual friends. She became one of my good friends abroad, and honestly a true homie. Every time we went out in Bilbao, we always talked about that first time we met in the airport, scared out of our minds about what we were getting into. It’s people like her that made my study abroad experience a memorable one. Never did I think that I could miss such a fun group of people as much as I do right now.
The best way I can describe traveling, is an itch you can’t seem to scratch. Once you go, you never want to stop. I am already planning my next study abroad adventure for either this coming Winter or next Summer. It’s kind of hard not to, when you work for USAC, lol. I am hoping to continue growing as a person and learning more about different cultures, especially Spanish cultures. I now only have three semesters left before I can graduate with my bachelor’s degree, and it’s a little overwhelming; but, I am excited to see where life takes me. Thank you all for following along on my summer journey and for your endless support. If you have any questions, or would like to get together and talk more about study abroad, I would be more than happy to!
Christie Chaump studied abroad in Bilbao, Spain. You can read more about her time abroad on her blog My Adventure Awaits.