Study Abroad Lesson 3: Friends and Amigos.

Square Peg Kids guest contributor, Hannah, is a 17 year old High School student from Central Oregon. When she was nine, she told her mother she was going to live in Spain. Eight years later she’s finally there in Andalucia, and finding out it’s a little bit different than what she’d imagined in her nine-year-old head. Apparently, she’s growing up, and it’s taking place in Southern Spain.

Read Hannah‘s articles about “fitting in” to a completely different culture.

Study Abroad Lesson 3 of 4: Friends and Amigos

As a teenage girl in the U.S, one of the most important parts of my life are my friends. Luckily, this has never been a problem for me. When I moved overseas, however, they weren’t able to cram themselves into my suitcase and come with me. So, I was faced with the dilemna of finding new friends…in a new Country to boot!

This proved to be significantly harder than it had in the past. I literally knew no one at my first Spanish school, and the language barrier certainly didn’t help. To be entirely honest, the first couple months of my exchange were some of the hardest of my life. As with most other obstacles I faced during my study abroad year, I learned to overcame it.

I struggled to fit in but ended up finding good company in Spaniards, other exchange students, and even myself.

Before I left to Spain I assumed I would have the famed college experience there. Not the college experience where I go through sorority rush and dance at a party every night, the one where I would meet a load of like-minded people and finally feel like I fit in. I experienced neither scenario.

Instead, I found myself in a country of teenagers who at first glance, couldn’t be more different than me. That combined with the language barrier and my involuntary introverted tendancies made making friends darn near impossible. This was especially difficult in my first school, which was in the worst part of town that was notorious for its not-so-secret heroin dealers.

Mi Amiga Espanol es de Argentina. Esta Bien.

Ironically enough, my best Spanish-speaking friend ended up not being Spanish, but Argentinian. I still wouldn’t say that we had very much in common, but she was so sweet and put up with me when I’d dance around the room with her dog in my arms.

Making friends with other exchange students was much easier, but not as culturally rewarding. My first host family always stressed the importance of having Spanish friends, but I personally feel that I learned more from my fellow Americans who were studying abroad. We could go to cheesy tourist attractions together, talk about all the differences between our homes and where we were living, and trade life lessons over a hard-to-find fresh salad. They could be a taste of home sometimes, like when we’d watch the Disney Channel and eat pancakes, but for the most part they actually encouraged me to “live” in Spain.


Sometimes, I even had conversations with myself to practice my Spanish, and found out more about myself than I’d ever known. I wrote hundreds of thousands of words on various subjects, and really evaluated the experience I was having. I discovered strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and opinions on just about everything that I didn’t know I even had the capacity to possess.

I got to know myself, and in turn I got to take those crucial steps to being happy with who I am as a human being.

I don’t know how often that happens to people my age, but I think it was a pretty huge part of my exchange. Breaking out of my comfort zone and getting to know everyone that I did this last year was not an easy accomplishment, but it was certainly worth it. I learned about social dynamics from all over the globe, true friendships, and what self-discovery really is all about. I have made friends whose grandkids will know mine, and I made friends who I was more than eager to be rid of upon returning home. I may not fit in all over the world, but at least I know now how to make the best of just about any social situation and that is “muy bien” in any language.

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