Studying abroad is a lot like applying for college: the tough part isn’t getting in, it’s staying.
Starting is fun. It’s new, it’s an adventure. But when you arrive, it’s not as easy as you’d think.
You have to keep the grades, maintain the schedule and get to know the people.
The same applies to studying abroad in Montevideo.
It was a leap of faith, and I’m still trying to regain my footing, but there’s an additional hurdle: the language barrier.
If you asked me a few months ago if I was ready to travel several thousand miles away from home, I’d laugh in your face. I’d say it was something I was born to do, something noted on all my bucket lists since I could write. But as time passes here in Montevideo, I find myself becoming more terrified of this experience.
I’m in a foreign land. I am part of the minority. I struggle to understand the dialect, the speed at which words are spoken and the thick accents that accompany it all.
Before, when my parents and friends would warn me of pickpockets, I would laugh and roll my eyes. I could handle myself, or so I thought.
Nothing has happened. The pickpockets aren’t abundant in this city, I have yet to get lost and the food has been easy to adjust to (shoutout to abundant pasta, empanadas and meat). Yet, I still find myself tentative in exploring the city.
I came here to learn Spanish, yet that’s the one thing holding me back.
The first week of sitting back and listening to conversation was fine; it’s important to get a feel for communication, but four weeks down the road I’m still just sitting back and listening.
Despite having several years of Spanish education under my belt before landing in Montevideo, I don’t understand every word or every sentence spoken. I’m not going to be fluent if I keep surrounding myself with my old culture – with songs I listen to, books I read and social media I communicate through in English. If I’m going to learn this language and this culture, I first have to truly experience it.
New experiences are fun, they’re exciting, but most of all they are challenging. Whether it’s signing up for new class, investigating a new way of thinking or even a reevaluating a way of life, it’s not going to be easy.
A lot of work must be done for the challenge to be successful. You have to dedicate time to understand just how you need to grow, and then go and experience the change.