I think that, all too often, when we talk about studying abroad (or travel more generally) it is easy to just show the highlight reel and omit all of the struggles — all of the difficulties that happen in translation as we move from one amazing experience to the next.
I know that I certainly fall into that trap.
We want to make everything look easy and effortless and struggle-free, but I would be lying if I said that my time abroad was always easy.
It wasn’t. But, then again, I guess that was never really the point.
Studying abroad in Spain was difficult, and at times uncomfortable, but it was also the most extraordinarily life-altering experience of my life.
I learned so much about Spanish culture and about the Spanish language while abroad, but even more importantly I learned so much about myself.
Arriving in Spain, realizing that my Spanish language skills were absurdly inadequate, discovering how much I rely on my phone to help me navigate through my day-to-day life — it all felt like being thrown into the deep end. And, in a way I guess that is exactly what it was.
But, the thing about being thrown into the deep end is that it is one of the best ways to learn to swim.
The metaphorical highlight reel looks amazing on the outside — it is the side of our travels (and ourselves) that we want to share with facebook and twitter, our family and our friends, but in reality it is the low lights that teach us the most about ourselves.
The low lights teach us how much we can handle, and how well we can cope during difficult situations. And, I think that in many cases the low lights make the highlights seem so much more incredible, and in turn the highlights make the low lights seem all the more worth it.