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  • yuri

seeking meaning in experiences



I started a four-month study abroad programme in Spain in September, and one and a half months have passed since. In Japan, I am a third year university student in the Department of International Relations, and my major is English. For that reason, I’m often asked why I am studying in Spain and learning Spanish.


Frankly speaking, I don’t have any clear reason like needing it for a job or a desire to work abroad using Spanish, so I can’t answer confidently and give a clear answer when I’m asked that question.


In my university, we have a requirement where we have to study a second foreign language for two years in addition to the major language. I decided to study Spanish because I had wanted to go to Spain since I was an elementary school student, when I saw a picture of the Sagrada Familia and felt moved by it. Plus, I heard that Spanish was not that difficult (But in actuality, I have found that learning Spanish is much more difficult than English!).


Finally, my trip to Spain became a reality in my first spring vacation in university and I visited the Sagrada Familia. I can not forget the awe I felt when I got out from the metro station, turned around and saw it for the first time. My first trip to Spain made me have more interest in Spain and gave me a stronger desire to learn Spanish.


My love for studying Spanish and my growing interest in Spain led me to study abroad there.


However, it took quite a long time for me to make this decision to study abroad. I wondered -- What meaning is there in studying abroad for only four months? Might it be an incomplete learning experience? Could it help me in any way? Is there meaning in studying Spanish for me? What am I going to do in the future after this study abroad? There was also a long time where I thought that it would be better for me to not go. Since I am the type to work towards a practical goal while staying in my comfort zone and focusing on one thing, it was scary for me to do something for an emotional reason. Doing something just because I feel like “I want to try it” and “I like it” was not something I was used to. However, I decided to study abroad because I thought that one day, I might regret not going to Spain since I was struggling with the decision so much. I made up my mind to go to Spain and study harder than ever before and experience as much as possible so that I would not regret this decision.


But even now as I am in Spain, I feel anxious sometimes with my decision. I know that what I get out of this study abroad depends on what I do now, but I wonder what I will be able to say about it when I finish.


I think that one of the reasons why I feel like this is my anxiety toward job-hunting. I can not help but be a little put off when I hear someone say “It’s for job-hunting” or “This experience is helpful for job-hunting.” I hear this regarding not only studying abroad, but also for studying, volunteering, joining a circle or club activities, and working a part-time job. When someone tells me, “You can have an advantage in job-hunting if you do that.” I feel the urge to resist and rebel. It makes me think: My student life is not for job-hunting! I’m not studying abroad to create a story I can use for job-hunting. The same can be said about my volunteering and part-time job. Studying is the same, too. I want to pursue something because it is what I want to do, not because it would be helpful for job-hunting.


In contrary to this feeling of resistance, I feel nervous when I imagine job-hunting for real. Thoughts such as “Is there meaning in this experience?” and “Can I give it meaning?” reflect my anxiety. I feel that everything I do is required to have meaning and I feel the need to prepare to tell and explain my story for job-hunting. I don’t have the confidence to convince them that my strength is in taking initiative because my study abroad was a result of pure curiosity -- I just liked it and was interested in it. I believe that finding a job is not the end goal of student life, but I sometimes find myself thinking backwards from that goal so I can achieve it.


One and a half months have passed since I came to Spain. I love that I can concentrate on studying Spanish, and using Spanish daily makes me happy. I get excited when I notice small improvements in my Spanish. I really think that my decision to go to Spain was good for me. I’m so glad I came here. I don’t ever think that this study abroad has no meaning.


Job-hunting isn’t something I can avoid because I plan on working in a company, but the things my study abroad is teaching me cannot be thought of as something merely “useful for job-hunting.” I came to learn Spanish, but I’m also learning other things such as the Spanish lifestyle and values through my everyday life here. There are encounters with new ways of thinking and new friends which enrich my life. I feel that these encounters are broadening my horizon and that they are experiences that I couldn’t gain had I not decided on this study abroad. Anxiety will always be hiding somewhere in my heart and won’t ever disappear, but I think that I will never regret this decision I made. Everything I have encountered in Spain leads me to believe this strongly.


In the end, maybe I was the one bound to job-hunting even though I had an intense dislike for it. I guess it was because it put my mind at rest, gave me some kind of prediction for the future and let me stay in my comfort zone. Having a clear goal and intention and making your way towards a goal could help relieve anxiety, but from my study abroad I realized that following your passion and curiosity is valuable too. What are the important things you consider when you have to make a decision or choose a path?

Images by Yuri

Edited by Kiara and Hikari

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