The Hardest Part of Studying Abroad Is Coming Home

Without a doubt, I could say that the hardest part of studying abroad was having to leave San Sebastián. Being a really shy and introverted person made me doubt that I would actually be able to live in a foreign country for five months without my family, but boy was I wrong. Before my journey in San Sebastián began I was not quite sure what to expect from it, but I can say it was everything I didn’t know I was missing in my life. Although I would love to share everything about my experience, I’ll keep it short (because if not I will just go on and on and this article will never end) and share my top three favorite parts from my amazing time in San Sebastián.

USAC students partake in basque heritage class during a study abroad in the San Sebastian, Spain

Growing out of my shell.

During my time in my program, I was basically involved in everything; which is crazy because anyone who knows me knows I am usually a really shy person who does not often get involved in anything. Before I arrived to San Sebastián, I promised myself that I would get out of my comfort zone and try new things. Although it was not easy at first, I can proudly say I was able to accomplish this task and even became comfortable staying out of my comfort zone and experiencing new things.

In San Sebastián, I had the opportunity to become a teacher assistant in two local schools, learn Basque Folk Dances (we even got to perform for our program!), pick up some cooking skills through the Basque cuisine course, participate in Carnaval with local people, present our translated book to a local school and much more.

Before starting my program, I would have never ever thought I was going to do all of these things, especially knowing all of the public speaking and interactions they require. At first my introverted self was so scared to take the first step, but once I actually got out there I realized how many amazing things the world has to offer and that I would never get to experience them if I always held myself back.  This, I believe was the biggest takeaway from my experience in San Sebastián.

Discovering my love for Spanish.

College students attend Basque Festival in San Sebastian, Spain during a study abroad with USAC

Thanks to my time abroad I was able to discover the passion I have for the Spanish language and even decided to add it as a second major once I got back to my home University. Even though I am a fluent Spanish speaker (as it is my first language) I had never studied the language itself so thoroughly until I got to San Sebastián. Besides taking two track courses, I also took a conversation and a translation class. I will admit that in the beginning I found myself very challenged by these classes. Not only was I learning so much grammatically, but I also had to learn a different accent and use of words that I was not used to (having Central American parents I am used to a very different Spanish). I was actually determined to switch to a lower track level because I didn’t feel confident in these classes at all, but wow, I am so glad my professors convinced me to stay.

I can easily say these courses turned into my all time favorite classes of my whole college career. I became so passionate about learning about the language itself and am so thankful to my professors who allowed us to learn and practice so many different aspects of it. The challenge was still there, like with any class, but it was the good type of challenge. They pushed me to get out of my comfort zone as a student and every result was so rewarding, no matter how stressful the process was. I got to do amazing things that I would have never thought of having the opportunity to do, like translating two books with my classmates, one which even got published on Amazon! One of my classes also sparked my interest in poetry and I actually began writing poems in Spanish because of it (I would have honestly never realized how much I love it).

I will forever be thankful for my professors who believed in me, much more than I believed in myself, and encouraged me to become the best version of myself, both as a student and as a person. I now carry a passion and appreciation for the language and am always looking for ways to expand my knowledge of it.

Traveling and making lifelong friendships.

College students during a study abroad in San Sebastian, Spain with USAC

I will admit that my first weeks abroad were kind of scary because of the fact that I was thousands of miles away from my family and friends. I was afraid that I wouldn’t make any friends and feel lonely the whole semester, but little did I know I was actually going to gain a new little family. USAC made it easy to interact and get to know people and very soon I found myself making strong friendships with other students in the program. Having friends nearby everyday made me feel comfortable and truly made San Sebastián feel like home. My friends soon became my family abroad and my travel buddies. We were able to explore many cities in Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, and even Morocco. Studying in Spain was a dream come true for me, so having the opportunity to visit and actually see all these beautiful cities with my own eyes was so surreal. We also created traditions like weekly brunches, homework on the beach, and ice cream dates at Boulevard (best ice cream ever!!). I not only gained amazing friendships that shaped my study abroad experience, but I also now have friends all over the United States to visit.

If you’re having even the slightest thought of studying abroad, I would say do it!! The world is truly so big, but you’ll never know what it has to offer if you don’t put yourself out there. I know it can be scary for many reasons, but trust me it will be TOTALLY WORTH IT. You won’t regret it!

Eskerrik asko Donosti, laster arte.

(Thank you San Sebastián, see you soon.)

Briana Morales is a USAC San Sebastián alumna and a student from California State University, Stanislaus.