7 Things I Learned About Myself During My Time Abroad

Hanna Sykes is a student at the University of Colorado – Boulder and an ISA Featured Photo Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Granada, Spain.

Studying abroad has been a life changing and eye-opening experience. Not only have I learned so much about how other people live and their culture, I have learned so many new things about myself, both good and bad. I am using the good things I learned about myself to drive my passions in life, and the bad things to improve.

1. I actually enjoy learning about historical monuments! I never had much of an interest in history, but there is something about being in the exact place where people created a society that is incredibly neat. I was able to go to Sicily, Italy during my Spring Break, and explored the extraordinary Roman ruins in Agrigento.

2. I like running! Usually at my home university I go to the gym several times a week, but in Spain I didn’t want to pay 30 euros a month to belong to a gym. In order to stay in shape, I started running one day and found it to be an incredible way to relieve stress and enjoy the outdoors. Near my house is a beautiful circuit park where lots of people, young and old, enjoy running.

3. It is very hard for me to learn a foreign language! I had taken Spanish for several years before coming to Spain, and have always wanted to become fluent. The classes I take here are in Spanish, which has helped improve my grammar, but it is still a daily challenge for me to have conversations in Spanish with native speakers. I am working on not feeling embarrassed or intimidated when strangers approach me and ask me something in Spanish. They appreciate that I tried my best.

4. I learned that I can eat pizza and pasta everyday for a week straight without getting sick of it. I traveled to Italy to meet my aunt and uncle, so of course, we took advantage of their country’s amazing pizza and pasta dishes.

5. I learned that sometimes I make silly mistakes, and that they have consequences, but it is always a learning experience. When I traveled to Italy, after taking a two hour bus from Granada to Malaga, I realized I forgot my passport! It was a moment of shock and embarrassment, and caused a great deal of stress. I wound up missing my flight and taking a bus ride back to Granada, getting my passport, taking another bus back to Malaga, and sleeping in the airport waiting for a 6 am flight. The airline also did not give me any kind of refund, so I wasted 250 euros having to buy a new flight ticket. The experience taught me to think ahead more and to spend more quality time in the present rather than always thinking of the future and missing important details.

6. I learned that teaching is definitely my calling. I have always loved kids and wanted to be a teacher, but in Spain I was able to take a practicum class that allowed me to go to a local bilingual “colegio” with children aged 3-11 and teach them English. It was a unique and fun experience working with children who speak very little English and needing to have patience and creativity when trying to get my point across. It also taught me how much impact I have on them – after just my second week the children were hugging me and making me beautiful drawings with my name on it. <3

7. Lastly, I am independent. I knew I was independent before coming to Spain, but it has a totally different definition now that I have lived abroad, away from my friends and family back home for an extended period of time. With this new level of independence, I planned out trips by myself to both Italy and France, and also have grasped a better sense of money since I have to pay for everything myself here.

Studying abroad is an experience that can help young adults become well-rounded. I am such a different person now. than I was before coming to Spain, and have grown so much mentally and emotionally. Of course, the majority of the things that happen to you abroad are incredibly positive, but it is also important to mention the hard things you learn that help you grow and change for the better.

And a few more of my favorite pictures from my time abroad…

Our ISA group’s attempt at spelling out ISA.


In beautiful Nerja on one of ISA’s weekend trips.


Sitting underneath of the shark aquarium at Granada’s gorgeous science park.


And lastly, a beautiful sunset taken from the port of Malaga.




Spain, you have changed me and you will forever have my heart!

The world awaits…discover it.

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