Studying abroad is a unique and exhilarating opportunity. Studying in the US as an international student was already a study abroad experience for me. But that didn’t lower my excitement to study abroad for a semester in Salamanca, Spain. Recently in January, as a part of Soka University of America’s learning cluster (winter block special classes), I was in Wales to learn more about its self-governance. This trip further added to my anticipation of studying abroad. Finally, after two weeks at home in Nepal, I flew to Madrid on the 27th of February. After several hours of airport waiting, transfers, and procedures, I landed in Madrid.
A warm coffee on a cold morning with a croissant at Principe Pio train station was my first coffee after almost a year of a coffee break. On a freezing cold morning, rolling two suitcases and going around probably made me look like a fool, but I enjoyed it to the fullest. The train to Salamanca finally departed the station. The long, arduous train journey was full of beautiful views of hills, farms, snow, and horses. Despite my 24-hour-long journey, I was excited whenever I saw beautiful landscapes. But my excitement didn’t last long. When I arrived at Salamanca, I finally realized people barely spoke English here. With my broken Spanish, weird Spanglish verbs like “soportar” (intended meaning: to support, actually meaning: to put up with), and hand gestures–my time in Salamanca started.
The classes started the very next day, all in Spanish. Walking almost 25 minutes to the class on cold mornings to try to understand as much Spanish as possible and go around without looking at the map wasn’t as easy as I had thought. But day by day, I’ve adjusted to this beautiful place. After two weeks, the freezing days have now turned into warmer days; what felt like a long walk to the university has been a pretty morning walk; conversation with the host mom has extended from “Hola” and “Gracias” to what can be better food options; and “soportar” has changed to “mantener” (actually meaning to support).
In these two weeks, I have traveled to the south of the city, conversed with locals, tried tapas, spent time in parks, twisted my ankle, walked into stores to hear people speaking (rapid) Spanish, and much more. But beyond all, I have learned to be determined, patient, and thoughtful. A new country, new city, new language–I had lots of challenges, but my mindset to make the most out of this opportunity to have both primary and secondary learning helped me navigate through problems.
I am thankful to everyone who’s supported me throughout, and if you’re reading this to learn more about studying abroad, you should definitely do it. Please don’t give it a second thought. This will be a one-of-a-kind experience, and you’ll forever thank yourself for choosing it.
Mukesh Bastola is a student at Soka University of America and an ISA Photo Blogger. He is studying with ISA in Salamanca, Spain.