Tellus: (tel’us), n. 1. [Latin] earth, soil, and the land; a country; the world. 2. a collection of Willamette University student’s insights, stories, photos and thoughts from their experiences studying abroad.

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What I Never Expected to Learn Abroad

When I would tell people, before leaving for Granada, Spain, that I was going abroad, they all told me how lucky I was to be able to have such an exciting and life changing experience. I of course knew how lucky I was, but I could never really imagine how my experience could be life changing, or how it could change me as a person. It did though, in a way that is difficult to put into words.
While I was initially looking forward to my semester abroad (which is why I signed up), a month or so prior to the beginning of the program, I started to dread the day I had to leave. I really did not want to go, and thought that I had made the wrong decision. Being somewhat of an introvert, I was terrified by the idea of living in another country where I knew no one and hardly spoke the native language. I feared the worst case scenario- that my host family would be unfriendly and I would make no friends and would feel completely uncomfortable and out of place. Thankfully, that is not at all what happened.
It turned out that my Spanish was nowhere near as terrible as I thought it was, and while I certainly struggled at times, I found that I was essentially able to communicate. I also found as soon as I arrived that my host family was more warm and welcoming than I ever could have imagined. They immediately made me feel at home, and before long, I felt like I was part of the family. And as for friends, while I won’t say that I made a ton, I had a good group of them that provided a definite support for me throughout the four months. Naturally, my experience had its ups and downs, and I’m not trying to paint a rosy and unrealistic picture. However, I would say that overall, I was much more capable of adapting to the situation than I thought I would be.
My time in Spain was probably the best and most memorable experience of my life so far. I will always remember the things I saw and learned and the people I met, but I will also carry with me a renewed sense of self-confidence. As cliché as that may sound, I really did learn to trust myself more and came to realize that I was not quite as incapable as I thought. This was certainly one of the most valuable parts of my experience, and if I had to give a piece of advice to a prospective study abroad student, it would be to trust and have faith in yourself.

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