Before this trip I had little experiences in which I was able to immerse myself completely into a new culture. After being able to do so for the last 30 days, I am now able to sit back and really reflect on the impact this will have on me as a person. I admittedly had some ethnocentrism going on before this trip, I now see why this wasn’t a good thing, and am grateful to have experienced something that forced me to step away from this way of thinking and see things from a different perspective.
When I first arrived in Spain I was surprised to see that they drove on the right side of the rode here, as I thought all of Europe drove on the left side of the road. When I first noticed this I found myself saying “huh they really don’t drive on the wrong side of the road here.” What is funny about this is that I acted as if the right side, driven on in America, was the “correct” way, and driving on the left side would be the “wrong” way. In a sense, it would be the wrong side if you were driving in America, but it is definitely not “wrong” to drive on the opposite side of the road, it is just different, and that’s the key thing here, different. Being in Spain I have come to realize that the things that are common in my culture like driving on the right side of the road, or tipping, are not the only correct way of doing things. When I see things that are unlike things that happen in US, I now realize that these things are just different, not right or wrong. Ultimately this realization has allowed me to come to appreciate the differences in culture, and see things in a new light. This realization has also helped me communicate more successfully with others from different cultures. I now want to learn more about these differences and become intrigued by them, instead of turning my nose away from them, I have found it is more exciting and helpful to be aware or them, and learn more about them.
I think that this trip will have a huge impact in the ways in which I approach relationships with international students at Purdue or international people in the United States. Before being able to really see how to handle cultural differences and understand different cultural values, I had a hard time relating to international students at Purdue or people from different countries. I had not really stepped out of my bubble of the American way of thinking. Being forced to step out of this bubble and this way of thinking, I have been able to have many great conversations with the students in this program from different cultures than my own. I have found it so fascinating to ask more questions about how they do things, what they believe, or what have you. I have been able to really open my mind and try harder to understand and find ways to relate to these students. I think for me this was one of the best parts of the trip. I have found myself more and more interested in getting to know these differences on a much greater level, and to be more mindful of them. I am excited to go back to Purdue and to be able to feel more comfortable with recognizing these things, and being more accepting and mindful of them.
Finally, this study abroad experience has also helped me to realize the importance of living life to the fullest, and being fully there during each and every moment. In Spain, I have come to realize that this value of just really living life, and enjoying it is really prevalent. You can see this just by their leisurely life style. You walk around restaurants from one to three in the afternoon and there are many people sitting around enjoying their lunch. They are not in a rush to get back to work, or to whatever else they may have to do, but they are enjoying themselves and the company that surrounds them. Being able to see this, I think that this experience will impact the choices I make, in the sense that I will strive to make choices that will lead to me enjoying every moment of my life. I think goals are important and reaching them is important, but I think it is important to live while trying to reach those. I see this importance more so now than I did before spending time in Spain. What I am saying is that I will now strive to make it a point to take advantage of every moment and every opportunity and live it up.
I could not have asked for a better time here in Barcelona. I am grateful for every high and the few lows that I have experienced on this trip. I am thankful for the group that I have been a part of and the amazing people I have met. And most of all, I am grateful for the lessons that this experience and each person I met have taught me.