Today’s blog post comes to us from UW-Platteville student & #APIabroad alumni Josh Weaver! He studied abroad with us this spring in Seville, Spain.
It’s hard to believe that I have been back in the States for a month.
This is the official end to my story of the incredible semester I had studying abroad in Seville, Spain. Looking back, I wish I would have been able to do a year because it feels like it went by in the blink of an eye. Some memories feel like they were just yesterday while others already feel like a very long time ago.
Studying abroad has completely changed my perspective of the world and how I interact with it.
There are some parts of Spanish culture that I like more than the United States, while the opposite is also true. Spain is an industrialized country like the United States where one has to work in a job to survive, but at the same time money and a person’s job is not the biggest factor in their life. It was really hard to see the amount of importance American culture puts on the importance of work and financial well-being throughout our entire life. Study hard in school and save to go to a good college so you can get a good job to pay off your debt, climb the ladder of success in your job, make enough money to buy xyz, save to help pay for your children’s tuition someday, and have enough money to retire comfortably and finally enjoy the golden years of life.
While financial stability is really important, I also am starting to be much more wary about how much my career goals impact the other areas of life. Materialism is probably just as prevalent in Spain as the US, but at the same time I felt that experiences were more important than monetary and physical items to the Spanish people. I have read that enjoying life and its experiences brings more happiness which leads to less stress and longer lives, which may be one of the reasons why Spain ranks 4th in the world (2018) compared to the US at 26th for life expectancy. I am now trying to be cognizant of the motivations for why I do what I do, and not let my career goal of becoming a physician dictate my entire life.
Another change I’ve noticed is that my diet is a little better than it used to be.
The Western diet is probably not helping with the life expectancy, so I have drastically cut down on the junk food and processed foods I eat. In place of all these tastier and more convenient foods, I am making steady strides of eating more fruits, vegetables, and other natural foods.
A change my parents have noticed is that I am much more independent than I ever was before.
After meeting completely new people and being mostly responsible for my own life for several months, I became accustomed to just doing and making my own decisions when I wanted which is a little harder when I need to communicate with my family again on a daily basis.
This summer I have an internship at the Sauk County Health Department in their environmental health division. The department licenses and inspects all the lodging, food establishments, and pools in the county which covers the enormous tourist destination of the Wisconsin Dells. The first week I had the opportunity to go to lodging inspection in Wisconsin Dells where we encountered a Spanish speaking inhabitant in a room we wanted to inspect.
To make a long story short, I was the only person present who could speak/communicate in Spanish, so I stepped in and was able to ask her questions the inspectors had. She was very happy to be able to talk to someone that understood Spanish, and we proceeded to have a general conversation for half an hour. I know that without the intensive Spanish speaking experience I had during my time abroad I would have been very limited in what I could talk to her about and would not have had the confidence I did to talk to her.
In my first blog I said I knew that my study abroad experience would change me as a person which it clearly has.
I also said that I would hope that I will have changed for the better in a way I could never have imagined not having gone. I had to abandon almost everything I knew to travel half-way around the world with no one I knew for nearly four months. Jet lag, homesickness, a new system of education, new foods, new cultures, making new friends from the US and Spain, saying goodbye to everyone I came to love dearly, say goodbye to a way of life I had also grown to and loved, and everything else in between were some of the ups and downs to my time abroad.