A World of Difference: How Study Abroad Shaped Me


Emiliya Mailyan is a student at Middle Tennessee State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Barcelona, Spain.

If I could offer anyone a piece of advice, it would definitely be to study abroad at some point in their lifetime! It is an invaluable experience and the things that you learn and memories you make while abroad will be with you forever.

I remember sitting in my study abroad office late my freshman year and flipping through various catalogs and brochures of far away places that I had only seen pictures or seen in movies. I remember choosing Barcelona as my destination, right there, on the spot. Not even for a particular reason, it was just the first city that popped into mind when I decided to go abroad!

And so it began, a year of hard work, planning, remembering deadlines, writing essays and getting to know myself a bit better. Not to mention, getting to know the city I’d be calling home for 3 months much better. To be honest, it was quite a process and there were a lot of nights spent with no sleep. In the end, it was absolutely worth it—all of it.


Collioure_Collioure_France_MailyanEmiliya_Photo1.jpgA magnificent view of the Mediterranean Sea from the French coastal city of Collioure

TheFrenchCountryside_Carcassonne_France_MailyanEmiliya_Photo2.jpgThis breathtaking view from the castle of the fortified city of Carcassonne, France, reminds me that all the hard work always pays off in the end!

Toulouse_Toulouse_France_MailyanEmiliya_Photo4.jpgA typical, rainy autumn day in Toulouse, France.

I expected to have a lot of new experiences, to meet new people and see new places. But what I didn’t expect, and what was perhaps the most important thing to take away from my experience abroad was that I learned so much about myself and I’m so happy that I did!

Speaking of learning, my classes abroad helped me look at the world and current events in a whole different light. I am grateful at experiencing a newfound global perspective on things. All thanks to having professors from different parts of Europe and hearing locals’ opinions from a multitude of cities on topics like food and politics.

From the moment I arrived in Barcelona, I felt a sense of wonder, like being a kid and walking through streets bursting with festive decorations and lights during the holiday season. You don’t know where to look, which lights look prettier or how they manage to glow so bright and be so colorful. Everything seems like magic, almost unreal in a way—like a dream.

lights_copenhagen_denmark_mailyanemiliya_photo3The festive lights that decorate the Christmas Market in the center of Copenhagen, Denmark, send a warm and inviting glow all throughout the city.

And I’m happy to say that even with my time abroad coming to a close and having achieved a great sense of familiarity with Barcelona, I still haven’t lost that feeling of wonder I felt on day one of arriving.

Traveling around Europe during the weekends was also another way for me to learn outside of my classes at university. I was able to travel to different parts of Spain, a few cities in the south of France, Rome, Florence and Pisa in Italy and Copenhagen, Denmark. And I still have Manchester, England on my list before my adventures abroad come to an end (at least for now, anyway!)

Traveling and experiencing the different atmospheres and vibes of these places gifted me the opportunity to live life at a different pace—specifically, at the pace of the locals to each city. I felt the relaxed atmosphere of the Mediterranean coast of Spain. I smile whenever I think of how much the Italians would laugh and seem so merry all the time. I let myself wander around and feel the mystery of the rainy cities of southern France. In Copenhagen I felt like a kid again, I was in awe of how adorable and colorful all the buildings were. I allowed myself to let go of any worries and just enjoy how beautiful this fairytale of a city is.

I think that from being abroad and traveling to different cities in Europe, I learned that you really can belong anywhere if you so desire. There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a new city and finding your own little treasures and gems. Furthermore, it is important to do this on your own, because while it’s great to go out and explore with friends… sometimes you can miss out on opportunities because you’re not always paying attention to what’s around you.

CutenessofCopenhagen_Copenhagen_Denmark_MailyanEmiliya_Photo5.jpgSome very adorable houses and buildings that I came across while wondering around the happy streets of Copenhagen.

My best moments would have to be when I would stumble upon a really quirky café that would soon become my go-to spot for breakfast. Another moment might be when I would be looking for one specific place, either go down the wrong street or get distracted, but instead find a hidden and unique shop with just about anything you could think of!

Sweets_Toulouse_France_MailyanEmiliya_Photo6.jpg A colorful and cute candies shops that I stumbled upon while exploring Toulouse, France.

I will forever be grateful for how these adventures abroad taught me that I could go anywhere on my own and feel at home. I got to see parts of the world that I had previously only imagined visiting. I learned what it felt like to be anonymous, no one knew me prior to my arrival in Europe. With inspiration flooding my imagination, I created a story out of my adventures and let my inner child out. Within my first weeks here, I grew apprehensive of time because I never wanted to leave. I was fearful of my story coming to an end. Yet, all my ventures through Europe helped me realize one last important lesson: the story of study abroad is never-ending.

Memories_Barcelona_Spain_MailyanEmiliya_Photo7.jpgHere I am in Barcelona, lost in the act of capturing a moment for my memories.

The world awaits…discover it.

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