What I’ve Learned as an American in Spain

Laura Cureton is a student at Texas A&M University and a former ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Bilbao, Spain.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or maybe on a remote island, you know that this past year has been tumultuous in the U.S. There was a crazy election cycle, and now it seems like everyday there is a new headline about the president or some kind of protest and general unrest. Being out of the country during this time has been quite interesting. I have gotten the chance to gain a new perspective from the outside looking in.

Until you leave the your home country, you will never really understand what the rest of the world sees. As most people consider the U.S. to be the leader of the free world, what occurs within its borders greatly affects what happens outside of them. During my time in Spain, I have had the opportunity to speak with multiple people with beliefs ranging the political spectrum. Their first question is usually along the lines of, “do you like President Trump?” While this question is what gets the conversation started, our interactions go much deeper than one person or one party. One thing I have realized is how influential the United States is globally, not only in politics or the economy, but in social movements as well. While each country, including Spain, has a different worldview and goals for themselves, many look to the U.S. to see what we are doing. This is a huge responsibility and it is something that I am glad I have come to understand.

It’s an odd feeling being away from my home in the States during these past few months. On one hand, I have felt relief that I haven’t been in the midst of the arguments and insults being hurled on social media but it also feels like I am very disconnected from situations that could affect my life greatly. The greatest way the United States’ politics affects my life in Bilbao is through my own personal growth. I have learned to not be afraid of difficult conversations or to hear out others who perhaps have a much different opinion than I do. My own experiences and environment have honed my political beliefs and my current experience–living in a country different from my own–has helped to continue the molding of my worldview. The way Spaniards see the world around them is very different from the way most Americans do, and there is nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, I truly believe that when my time here is done, I will have a richer, deeper understanding of the world.

The U.S. is going through a trying time of change and resistance, it’s true. And while this reality has caused a few awkward moments in my interactions with people in Spain, I have already grown immensely because of it. I have gained more confidence in what I believe because it is different than the norm in Europe and therefore I must understand it to a higher degree. I have also come to be grateful for the opportunity to speak and interact with others different than me. It shouldn’t be looked at as a burden or something to be fearful of. Rather, it has allowed me to grow as a person, student, and an American.

The world awaits…discover it.

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