I left the United States eager for my study abroad experience.

This is my chance to try something new, I thought.

I couldn’t wait to leave behind my American life, not because it was bad, but because it was familiar. There’s an excitement—an exhilaration, even—in giving up the known to embrace the novel. You take a bold step out, even if you don’t know where you’ll end up.

For me, the bold step was good. My time in Spain has been full of fresh experiences, frequent Spanish, and fulfilling relationships. There are things I’ve learned here that I would never have learned in Tuscaloosa. And yet I’ve also come to appreciate my old life in new ways. I’m happy to leave the 9am mornings and 10pm dinners to the Spaniards.

The most important lesson from my time here, though, comes from those I left back in the states. My time over 4,000 miles away has taught me to value my family in ways I never did when only 300 miles apart. Despite the greater distance, I talked to my family more while here than when at UA. And though I have bright, beautiful, and beloved memories with my Spanish friends, my favorite memory is just talking with my family in their Airbnb when they came to visit.

That’s part of the beauty of studying abroad: engaging a foreign part of the world teaches you more about yourself.

Moving halfway around the world revealed the richness of the relationships right in front of me.

When you study abroad, launch with excitement and end with reflection.

You’ll be surprised by what you learn.

Caption: The Nerja Caves, pictured above, was one of the coolest places we went while my family visited Spain.