I have a lot of goals and philosophies that guide the way I lead my life, but they can all be basically summed up by my desire to live life to its fullest and have no regrets. At times this can be a tough order to fill, especially when I reflect on past mistakes. Hindsight vision really is 20/20, but I try to look at these mistakes as an opportunity to learn something and better myself. As the saying goes, experience is life’s greatest teacher… or something like that.
I made some mistakes during my first year living abroad in Spain, but the truth is that I don’t regret any most of them. The title of this post really should be: Five Mistakes I Made and Learned From During My First Year Abroad So That I Won’t Repeat Them Again Next Year. That would’ve been too long, though.
Mistakes, errors, blunders and gaffs are to be expected in life, but the important thing is to learn from them. Now that I am back home with my family and have had time to reflect on my past year, these are some of the mistakes I will surely not make again when I head back to Spain for another year of living abroad.
Mistake/Regret #1: Not living with Spaniards
I can say this with a clear conscience because the American roommate I did live with this year knows that I absolutely love her, and I thank my lucky stars that she was such a great roommate and friend. My conscience is also clear because I know she felt the same way about our living situation.
One of our main goals while living in Spain was to improve our Spanish skills. Living with a Spaniard would have helped tremendously, but unfortunately in our small town we just couldn’t find anyone to live with that fit our needs. In an ideal world, next year I will live with at least one Spaniard to help immerse myself more in the Spanish culture and one person from any English-speaking country for those days when I’m too tired or frustrated to speak Spanish.
Mistake/Regret #2: Not watching TV in Spanish
I didn’t have much control over my roommate situation, but I could have made up for all the English I spoke at home by at least watching a ton of TV in Spanish. One of my close friends this year was a Spaniard who spoke English incredibly well and credits some of his ability to watching shows like the Big Bang Theory in English. He constantly implored my roommate and I to watch TV in Spanish, but we didn’t really listen to him. He also told us not to speak to him in English, but that didn’t really happen either. *Sigh* My Spanish skills improved a lot this year, but I still must admit that I really dropped the ball on that goal.
So, next year in addition to religiously following Greys Anatomy, Scandal, Twisted, Teen Wolf, Under the Dome, and Game of Thrones, I will also add some Spanish news programs and a popular Spanish TV series to the list. Please wish me and my time management skills some luck.
Mistake/Regret #3: Not taking smaller trips and exploring my area more
Mistake/Regret #4: Not taking more pictures
When I spent the summer of 2011 studying in Seville, Spain, I took a million pictures of anything and everything. For me, my “study” abroad program did involve some studying but mostly it felt like a two-month vacation, and vacations are meant to be documented. This year, I thought of my life in Spain as simply my normal life, and I don’t feel the endless need to capture every mundane moment of my life unlike many people in my generation (I swear if I see another selfie of someone in the front seat of their car going to work/the mall/ the beach etc. making the same face they always make just with a different outfit on, I will explode. End rant).
Although I have zero regrets about not taking pictures of every café con leche I drank or every tapa I ate, I do wish I took more pictures of my town and with my friends so I could remember this wonderful year of my life. I’m sure I’ll never forget, but more photo memories would have been nice.
Mistake/Regret #5: Not learning how to cook any Spanish food