{Learning Abroad Series} 7 Life Lessons from Learning Spanish Abroad

I excitedly traveled to Mexico, Spain, and Chile to become a better Spanish speaker.  With classes, conversations with locals, and (many!) mistakes along the way, I achieved my goal: I became a fluent Spanish speaker. While I was abroad, I was learning Spanish, yes, but I was also learning unforgettable life lessons.  Here are some of them:

  1. When I’m truly happy, things just work out effortlessly.  

Before I left for Santiago, Chile, I was in bad shape (literally!): I had gained 30+ pounds that year (and seemingly no gym membership or diet could reverse it), my face had broken out beyond recognition, and I was working long, stressful hours at my job.  When I arrived in Santiago, I became happier: I tried new foods (pebre is my liiife), met exciting, new people, and explored new beaches.  In the first two weeks, I lost 10 pounds, my face cleared up, and my demanding ex-clients became a distant memory.  I’m convinced now: choosing happiness makes everything fall into place.

Eating a typical Chilean lunch - pastel de choclo - in Pomaire, Chile.
  1. A 9-5 job isn’t for me.

I’ll admit it: waking up at 6:30am hurts my soul.  And there’s this: I am disorganized and procrastinate (badly) on filing.  A boss’s dream! So, while I was abroad, I woke up - without an alarm - and, sometimes, really late!  There’s a part of me that knows that there are no more inflexible schedules (or filing) for me to mess up in my future!

  1. I will always, always bring a picture with me to the hair salon.

After having been in Mexico for 3 months, it was time for a haircut and coloring. Can you see where this going? Anyway, my sister and I asked for some caramel-colored highlights to match our current style at the time.  After about an hour, the hairdressers removed our towels and…. TA-DA! Our hair was PLATINUM BLONDE. White, even. Now, even in the U.S., I will always bring a picture with me.

  1. It’s okay to feel stupid.

I accidentally told my host mom, in Spanish, that I was pregnant!  Then, stumbling over Spanish again, instead of telling her that I broke my comb, I told her that I broke my penis!  Mistakes like this used to make me feel dumb, but now I embrace them; they make for hilarious memories!  Plus, what a quick way to learn!

Puebla, Mexico
  1.  I can survive without TV.

I actually survived without TV for months at a time! I didn’t know who got a rose on The Bachelor, which houseguest was evicted from the Big Brother house, nor who died on the most recent episode of Game of Thrones.  When I returned to the U.S., I was finally able to cut back on the TV-watching and make time for more important things, like eating.  Just kidding!

  1. I’d rather feel comfortable than glamorous.

Whether climbing pyramids, riding horses, shopping in 90-degree, outdoor markets, or walking to the best bars, I learned that comfort enhanced every experience. So, I opted for the comfiest leggings, shoes, and shirts.  This has carried over to my life back home: adios heels, tight jeans, and itchy shirts!

  1. I’ll never be too old to miss my mom.

When I’m abroad, I miss my mom. A lot.  I forget all of our differences and remember how important she is to me.  Since my travels, I have learned to appreciate her even more and, to her surprise, I call her more often.  Love you, Mom!

Parque de Retiro
  1. I can only focus on one goal at a time.

While I was learning Spanish in Spain, I wanted to travel to Greece, Italy, England, Portugal, and so many other countries! Do you know what happened?  I was so busy planning all of these trips at once that I ended up going nowhere.  I have taken this lesson to heart: each year, I focus on one or two goals, and that’s it.

What is one surprising life lesson that you’ve learned on your travels? Share your answer below!

Blogger Bio:

Shannon Marshall and her twin sister, Jessica, have spoken their way through Mexico, Spain, and Chile.  They help travelers, like them, make the most out of their trips abroad by having confident conversations in Spanish.  Before your next trip, get the word-for-word phrases that will have you talking to Spanish speakers as soon as you land: https://speakwithlocals.leadpages.co/speak-spanish-as-soon-as-you-land-2/

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7 Life Lessons from Learning Spanish Abroad