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Why Did I Choose to Study Abroad?

Hello! My name is Benjamin Pearl, I’m in eleventh grade, and I am studying abroad in Spain for the academic year 2017-2018 through CIEE. Unfortunately I’m a bit late to this whole blog thing (about 6 months to be exact lol), but recently I've been motivated to share some of my stories, tips, recommendations, etc from my study abroad experience.

Let’s start of with why I chose to study abroad:

I’m someone who loves people. I love meeting new people, I love talking to new people, and I love making new friends. How cool would it be to make A TON of new friends from another country, in another language, while building a bridge between cultures!? The answer is very cool. And coming from someone who has developed and grown these interpersonal relationships over the past sixth months, it has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

I also have a passion for traveling. I love seeing and going to new places and learning about the cultures and customs. What better way to satisfy my yearning for travel and culture by living in another country with another family? I have been able to immerse myself and become part of a brand new culture with brand new people and a brand new way of life. This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity which is extremely uncommon in today’s world (even most study abroad programs in college don’t dive this deep into the host country’s culture).

In addition, I also have a passion for the Spanish language. Ever since I took my first Spanish class in middle school, I knew that I wanted to become fluent in this beautiful language. With hundreds of millions of native and non-native Spanish speakers, this language is becoming increasingly more important in today’s global community. I knew that the most effective and interesting way of becoming fluent would be a full cultural immersion -- and WOW was I right. For me, Spanish became a language of a mashup of indifferentiable noises and tongue rolls (and the castellano th sound) to a language that I can almost fully understand and speak. I know I would never be able to learn this skill in a classroom. I can now say that I have developed the ability to communicate and express myself in a new language which is something that I have always dreamed of doing. I absolutely could not have accomplished this hadn't I thrown myself into a Spanish-speaking country for a cultural immersion. And let me tell you, it was not easy to get to the point I’m at in terms of language skills. It’ll be hard, but it’ll be so so worth it.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I was craving something different. I wanted something new. After going through eleven years of the same school system, taking the same classes with the same people, I felt a need to differentiate myself. I felt the need to break the mold and do something new. I knew that studying abroad was so different and unique for a high schooler, and I am proven right all the time. I get a feeling of utmost pride every time someone says “you’re a high schooler studying abroad?!” or “what you’re doing is incredible, especially for just a kid in high school.”

What students worry about and, probably, what I worried the most about while choosing to study abroad was the impact it would have on my college application and academics. I weighed the benefits of a few AP classes and some extracurriculars against the once in a lifetime opportunity of leaving behind my life in the US for a year to immerse myself in a new country, becoming fluent in another language, develop a bridge between cultures, while becoming more independent, building my character, and discovering more about myself and the world as a whole. I chose the latter option. And, in my opinion, that decision will go to benefit me as a person much more in my future than my American 11th grade classes* ever would have. I already see myself reaping the benefits of studying abroad. I no longer question if this was the right decision. I know that this was the right decision for me. I encourage anyone who is considering studying abroad to weigh the benefits of staying in an American high school** just like almost every other American student against taking the opportunity of doing something different. I chose to do something different and unique that will provide me with skills and experiences that will literally last a lifetime. I weighed my options and chose to study abroad and I am so happy that I did.

*I am still getting all of my junior year class credits! I worked with my guidance counselor, CIEE, and my Spanish school to make sure that, one way or another, I am getting my necessary class credits.

**It’s important to remember that studying abroad in NOT a year off from school; it is not a vacation. I still have to work hard to do well in my classes here in my Spanish school. Luckily, they have been very flexible and accommodating to the obvious language barrier.

My instagram is @benpearl. Feel free to DM me with any questions you may have!

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