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**Exploring Life as an Exchange Student at Auburn University**

An unnecessary — yet highly encouraged — aspect of the Auburn student experience is participating in a study abroad program. Currently, I am seizing the remarkable opportunity to spend a whole semester as an exchange student in Spain, which is truly an enriching endeavor.

I want to make it clear that my decision to study abroad is not a means of escaping the charm of the “Loveliest Village on the Plains” for any dramatic reasons. Rather, I view it as one of the many avenues Auburn provides for attaining a comprehensive education.

While education traditionally involves attending classes and learning from seasoned educators, it encompasses much more than mere lectures, assignments, and tests. Immersing oneself in entirely new environments with distinct languages, traditions, behaviors, governance systems, and societies can be a transformative experience that enriches one’s perspective significantly.

Growing up as a military BRAT (which stands for “being relocated all the time”) due to my father’s Army career exposed me to numerous schools, states, and social circles. However, nothing could have prepared me for the profound impact of relocating to Spain for a four-month period.

The phenomenon of culture shock is undeniably real and inevitable. During my initial week abroad, I encountered a completely different routine of classes, meal times, transportation, and social interactions, diverging from anything familiar to me back on “the Plains.” It felt akin to starting freshman year all over again, albeit more perplexing due to having already developed collegiate study techniques, routines, and interests.

Despite the support from my Auburn community and the guidance of Auburn’s study abroad program, I often felt disoriented, bewildered, and fatigued. This experience instilled in me a profound empathy for international students at Auburn, recognizing the immense courage and commitment required to navigate academic challenges amidst cultural disparities.

Attending classes conducted in a non-native language adds an extra layer of complexity, where every lesson feels like a dual challenge. Interactions become stressful when conversations unfold rapidly in an unfamiliar language, impeding effective communication despite prior Spanish language training. This language barrier stripped me of my usual fluency and hindered my ability to engage, a stark contrast to my roles as an English major, journalist, and sociable individual.

While I don’t intend to discourage others from pursuing study abroad opportunities, I believe it’s crucial to acknowledge the inherent challenges. Embracing such difficulties is an integral part of personal growth and academic development, despite the initial hardships of leaving behind the familiar comforts of Auburn.

By embarking on this journey, I am nurturing a deeper sense of humility and gratitude, expanding my global perspective, and discovering newfound passions in an immersive and enduring manner. This transformative experience, coupled with the solid foundation Auburn provided, has enhanced my educational journey beyond measure, offering invaluable lessons and insights that transcend conventional classroom learning.

This narrative barely scratches the surface of my study abroad encounters, and I hope it sparks curiosity among readers to engage with current exchange or international students, a vital and dynamic segment of the Auburn community eager to share their experiences and embrace new cultural encounters.

Do you enjoy this narrative? The Plainsman operates without financial support from tuition or student fees, and we refrain from subscription charges. However, you can contribute to The Plainsman to show your support.

Sami Grace Donnelly | Correspondent Overseas

Sami Grace Donnelly, a junior majoring in English literature, commenced her journey with The Plainsman in the Fall of 2021. She has served as a columnist, the Opinion Editor, and is currently reporting from abroad during her study program in Spain.

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