Friday, May 12, 2017

Quick Thoughts: After Study Abroad

The semester is almost over and Spain will soon become a memory for me. I find myself, in these last two weeks, looking ahead to what needs to be done this summer and next year and...
Before I get ahead of myself (which has definitely happened before), I've had to keep in mind one of the most immediate feats for when I return to the States--reverse culture shock.
I'm not so unfamiliar with this experience as I have had to undergo this process every time I went from Hawaii to Cali, and also from Belize to the States. But I know that will play a huge part in how I deal with stress and with the upcoming school year. So here are some tips for those who are facing big transitions after time abroad OR for those who are interested in studying abroad.

1. Take your time with adjusting. Don't try to do it all at once because believe me, there will be more to get used to than you realize. You'll have to not only readjust to American culture, but also to your family and friends.
2. Accept that this experience has changed you. I'm not saying that your core personality or root of self has changed, BUT after living in a different culture, possibly speaking a different language, and other experiences abroad, may have had an effect on how you see the world and how you interpret cultural differences. You may even have changed your routines and priorities upon your return. You may get bored or be put off by the fact that the people you left behind (friends and family) have more or less been doing the same things. You may feel upset or frustrated because your loved ones don't fully understand your experiences and new behaviors. THAT'S PERFECTLY NORMAL. It happens to every traveler.
3. Be patient and gracious with yourself and with your loved ones. Tension and stress happens, but these two things make it way easier for yourself and for others.
4. Set super-short term goals! These are for all my people who may struggle with anxiety or depression under deep stress. One. Thing. At. A. Time. I have already set mini daily goals to keep myself sane and centered, and to also build healthier habits. For example, I noticed I would pick at my fingers every time I got stressed, worried, bored, lazy, etc. So I began disciplining myself to stop. Overcoming that daily (2 days in a row so far lol) has actually made me more productive and forces me to rely on the fact that I'm not in control, and that what will happen will happen.
5. PRAY. Lastly, for my Christians out there, you all know we a Savior, Father, and Friend who knows us and cares about us. Don't forget to pray about everything, even the little things. I know for me, looking to God for guidance, strength, assurance, and peace has taken load after load off of my shoulders. Also it keeps me centered on the hope that is Christ, which trumps any sort earthly goal I may be worried about. He works all things together for the good of those who love Him, so pray :)

"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matthew 6:31-34

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


Travelling alone while abroad, I believe is something truly valuable. While group excursions and organized trips with experienced guides are helpful and at times more educational; the time I have spent, exploring a place on my own, has been so enriching. The past few weekends, I have taken it upon myself to travel to Denia, a precious Valencian pueblo, and Madrid, the capital of Spain.
Both required lots of time sitting on a bus, lots of self-awareness, and lots of prayer. It was my first time travelling alone, and I felt that weight much more during my time in the bustling city of Madrid. But even with the weight of being by myself, I also experienced a release—a paradox that I often feel being an introvert when I have those hours alone. Except this time, it has been days of alone time.
Now when I say alone, I mean not having a travel buddy to see and experience the awe that I had when visiting some of these places. I had God, my boyfriend and my parents on skype, social media, and of course the people sitting next to me on the bus rides and the people in my hostel. And that’s just it, travelling alone gives you the opportunity to appreciate people you have in your life and meet new ones. It forces you to leave your bubble, be unconventional, and get into some socially awkward situations.
Having that time alone to appreciate your study abroad country is something I suggest to any aspiring student. I could see two new sides of Spain.  In Denia, I was welcomed by pastors of the Salvation Army church. Though mentally taxing, pushing myself to get to know new people was enriching as I learned about their family and how small this world is. For example, the father of this Valencian family, is absolutely in love with the Hawaiian hula dance. Being the weekend of the Merrie Monarch Festival, he woke up each morning at 6:00am to watch the live stream in Hilo. I could answer his and his family’s questions about Hawaiian local culture and American culture in general, while they in turn showed me Denia. Not only was there cultural sharing, I spoke Spanish the ENTIRE time, except for the last day there when I found that their daughter knew English. I was blessed by their hospitality and of course the homemade paella and tortilla de patatas (con chorizo!).  I can safely say; I have a family with open arms in Denia that I can visit when I return to Spain.
As for Madrid, there was no familiar church or family that reached out to me. All me for four days. I would say you cannot live in Spain for a semester and not visit the capital. Not having a guide in Madrid, and the necessity of serious self-awareness, forced me to see the city for what it was. I noticed things that with other people, I may not have. I could see what I wanted whenever I wanted. I didn’t have to keep track of people, or try and compromise with anyone on what activity we should do. I could pace myself, rest when I wanted, and you get the picture. While the anti-social side of me was fighting for the spotlight, I had over-zealous people in my hostel and on the bus, that wanted to have a conversation with me (even if I was clearly listening to music, watching a movie, or reading a book). I realized if I stayed in one place long enough, someone was going to talk to me. I had to get over myself, and listening to the elderly Spanish women tell me about her life story and her problems with her daughter; I had to listen to and respond to the women in my hostel about why we were in Madrid, where we’re from, etc. Again, I say though you are technically by yourself, it does not mean you are alone.
Those words are words told to me by my family, church family, my boyfriend, and people close to me, who know that I have struggled with being by myself for long periods of time. I say to them thank you. Through these experiences, I have practiced my Spanish, learned more about Spain, saw some dope art, and have had time of self-reflection.
To those who are hesitant to travel to another country because of fear of being alone, I tell you this: that time alone is a precious treat and opportunity to step away from the hustle of life and pay attention to yourself and others around you. And for my Christian friends who struggle with being alone, remember that God is always with us and that because of our relationship with him, being found in Christ, we can be certain that we are never alone. So, book a ticket, study abroad, even explore your own city by yourself. Appreciate where you are, make the most of it, and rest in the peace and hope of God.

Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.