While it can be nice to enjoy the comforts of home, seeing the world can expand your perspective of the world and in turn, increase your happiness. Immersing yourself into a new culture is an extremely rewarding experience and while it may be daunting, traveling to foreign lands challenges us to think in a new way. Jessica Hopkins has experienced this first hand. Not only is she my roommate and sister in Chi Omega, she is also an avid traveler. I hope you enjoy reading about Jessica’s experience; perhaps you’ll be inspired to hop on a plane yourself and see what this amazing world has to offer!
Where did you study abroad and how did this experience add to your happiness?
JH: I studied abroad in Cordoba, Spain (in the southern region near Seville) for 4 months during the fall quarter of my sophomore year. I went with a UC program that allowed me to take classes with Spanish students, live in a Spanish home, travel all around Europe, taste new foods, experience eclectic cultures, and gain a broader perspective of the world. I had wanted to study abroad since I was little, from the moment I realized that other countries existed besides the United States; with that said, living in Spain literally fulfilled one of my “life goals” and allowed me to live in a world of generous people and exquisite culture. To this day, it is one of the best experiences of my life.
What was your happiest memory?
JH: Personally, my favorite moment of the trip was my visit to Barcelona with several of my friends. One day we went to the local Spanish market, bought lots of fruits and bread, rode a gondola up a mountain overlooking the city, had a picnic with our food, and sat on top of a castle to watch the sunset. Honestly, it was my happiest day.
What was the most challenging aspect of the experience?
JH: The most challenging part of my stay in Spain was when I contracted a gastrointestinal virus and became extremely ill. My Spanish family had left for a business meeting, and I was scheduled to leave for Portugal as well, so I was alone to care for myself. Being extremely sick in a foreign country and having to admit yourself to the hospital is a scary adventure. Feeling terrible for multiple days is anything but a boost of happiness; however, it eventually went away and I recuperated – teaching me to appreciate being sick in my own bed.
How is the Spanish culture different from American culture? Do you think they’re a happier people?
JH: The Spanish people, aka the natives, live a much slower-paced lifestyle than many Americans are accustomed to. However, they are anything but lazy because they make money to live and enjoy their life. Complete respect and priority is placed on relationships, family, and friends to the Spanish. Overall, I truly believe they are a “happier” nation than the United States because the relax time they carve into their schedules allows them to experience each other, cook delicious food, drink fabulous wine, and truly enjoy life.
What would you say to someone who was thinking about studying abroad?