A Year in Spain

During my third year at the University of Montana, I studied abroad in Málaga, Spain, a smaller city on the southern coast in a province called Andalucía. My experience was filled with ups and downs, challenges, and growth as well as unadulterated fun. My global theme and challenge is Culture and Politics. Living in Spain and traveling throughout Europe, I was lucky enough to meet friends from Spain, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Germany, England, Ireland, Poland, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Morocco, China, South Korea, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, and even other Americans. By interacting with cultures from across the globe, many of them completely different from that of the United States, I was exposed to cultural differences that opened my mind and challenged my perspective on life. I also noted similarities between myself and everyone with whom I interacted, and felt connected globally to other human beings, without regards to nationality or upbringing. Learning Spanish was also an incredibly humbling and eye opening experience. I immersed myself in the Spanish language and was able to gain so much understanding about the culture through speaking and listening to the language itself. This highlighted, again, both differences and similarities between Spanish and American culture. I also learned to be humble and listen more than I speak – at first because I couldn’t say much but by the end because I found value in listening to others before seeking for my own voice to be heard. I was exposed to countless different cultures and I was able to find a connection with nearly everyone I met, whether it be over something superficial or a deep, lifelong connection. As a leader, I believe it is important to listen to others and find common ground, while having an open mind and an understanding heart. Through living in a completely unfamiliar world I was able to hone in on these skills and develop them each day through different social interactions with new people. My experience abroad was never completely perfect – my computer, passport, and many other things were stolen, I struggled to find close connections at first, I was homesick and frustrated with Spanish culture at points, but the struggle is what makes the incredible moments stand out, and the experience so life-changing. My thirst to travel and experience new cultures, eat different foods, and meet new people has only grown stronger over the course of the last year, and I can’t wait to see how my cultural connections grow and change and to foster new ones as I use the skills I learned in Spain to explore every corner of the world and capitalize on new opportunities to see where life takes me.

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