Photo: Twin Sails/Shutterstock

Don’t Make This Your Biggest Regret When Living Abroad

by Jennifer Aspinwall Jul 28, 2017

I DID IT RIGHT. At first. I moved to Barcelona, Spain for four months my junior year of college and had the “true study abroad experience.” Partying, “studying,” traveling on the weekends — I basically did all the things that people who regret not studying abroad wish they had. So, the year after college, I made the decision to teach English in Madrid, Spain with the Auxiliares de Conversación program through the Spanish government. It was the perfect way to support myself abroad. And support myself I did. I worked 14-hour days, 4 days a week to make enough money to be able to travel on weekends. I was even able to save up some extra money to travel around Europe for the summer after the program.

The only problem was my constant worries about the future: falling behind in the business world, having a gap in my resume, not knowing what I want to do with my life when I got back — sometimes the list seemed endless. The first few months of the program, I was questioning all of this on a daily basis.

The auxiliaries program offered an option to do a second year. Yet even as I fell in love with Spain, I never really considered extending my contract. I did stay for the summer and travelled around with the money I had made from teaching, and with no concrete plan — just visions of where I wanted to visit next. That summer was the greatest of my life.

I came home to California at the end of August with dreams of pursuing acting, so I started taking classes and auditioning for roles. Teaching abroad had given me the confidence to take risks and pursue something that I hadn’t really considered before — because I wasn’t a supermodel and didn’t have the natural ability to cry on command. I worked day in and day out in order to be cast in roles, and I did find success getting hired for short films, web series, and independent features. Then my doubts started to creep in once again and waiting for auditions finally got the better of me. I decided it was time to get a job with a prestigious title at a respectable company because that’s how I would know I was “succeeding” in life.

One month and a few interviews later, I finally entered the corporate world, but the routine that works so well for some people was not the best way of life for me. Here I am 5 years later still trying to figure things out and maybe learning a few I can share here.

So, if you decide to move abroad and teach English, or work at a hostel, or bartend, I urge you to live in the moment and enjoy your time abroad. Nothing had changed when I got back. My friends still remembered who I was and still did the exact same things they did before I left. Living abroad as a recent college graduate is something that you just can’t quite do the same way as you get older. So, go ahead and move abroad. Live in the moment. Don’t feel obligated to fall into someone else’s narrative of success.

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