Language Learning, For a Year or Summer, Brings Life Lessons

Before leaving for my study-abroad year in Spain, I heard the same line from 10 different friends: “Bro, you should be grateful to get out of junior year in the States.”

Josh Mysore

Every day up until my flight, my dad reveled in the language immersion I’d have. My teachers told me how amazing my host family would be. And my entire inner circle seemed to have already evaluated my study-abroad experience: My entire life would change.

Three months later, I was crying on top of my bed at home in Spain. María, my host mom, walked in to help.

“I just miss my home,” I stammered in the heat of the moment.

She looked at me absolutely puzzled.

“Josh, she doesn’t speak English.”

In response, she glanced sympathetically but failed to hide the bewilderment on her face.

At that moment, I felt lonelier than ever. I felt confused. 

But expectations do not define reality. What remains constant are our own values, those definers that make us humans.

I should be having a blast. 

The next day, I met with my theater director, Oriol, after school in the auditorium.

After much deliberation, I told him about my fear of acting for the first time and sadness I’d been dealing with. He chuckled.

Laughed.

I couldn’t believe it. 

But Oriol followed up saying that he wasn’t surprised. He’d witnessed hundreds of other American students feel out of place, and he wasn’t surprised that I did too. He wanted to help.

What Oriol told me (in Spanish) was simple: There’s nothing that should have happened in my year abroad.

Unfortunately, I missed this study-abroad advice before I left for Spain. I went in with expectations — that I’d find closure and clarity with all my interests.  

But expectations do not define reality. What remains constant are our own values, those definers that make us humans.

Two weeks after that conversation, the night of the big theater performance arrived. More than 400 people — both Spanish and American — filled the giant auditorium hasta la bandera.

With absolutely no previous acting experience from home, I stepped into our group’s huddle, nervous. The moment seemed too real. I didn’t want to imagine what the audience expected.

But then I looked around my theater group and realized something.

My Spanish wasn’t fluent, but I’d progressed. I didn’t travel with my host family to exotic places, but our Sunday lunches ended with hours of laughter.

I hadn’t done everything I originally planned to before coming to Spain.  

But the difference is that, this time, I was OK with that.

Suddenly, my anxiety washed away. Adversity would always exist, but I remembered why I wanted to come to Spain: to do what I want to do.

When we all held hands and bowed at the end of the play, I didn’t even care about the amount of applause. I couldn’t care less about the masses’ opinions. I could ignore external pressure.

Nothing else mattered because I’d found my own answer to study abroad.

Those moments of satisfaction are what I should have been chasing.


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