Open the Door: Study Abroad

What do Amanda Gorman, Ang Lee, Harper Lee, and Vera Wang have in common? All four studied overseas! Amanda Gorman studied in Spain during her junior year at Harvard. Filmmaker Ang Lee from Taiwan studied in New York. Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill A Mockingbird studied a semester at the University of Oxford. Designer Vera Wang from New York spent a semester in France at the Sorbonne. What is it about these adventures that sets the stage for achievement?

Numerous studies show that several months’ experience in another country alters us and paves the way for our success. Students who study abroad are more likely to finish school and find a job upon graduation. That was my experience. When I left for Spain I was a junior without a declared major. My interests were split among biology, anthropology, history, philosophy and Spanish. A friend working in Germany suggested I study abroad, so we could meet up in France. Our conversation that day was a watershed in my life.

Ahoy, Madrid Spain. Photo: Spain Program Classmate

I had traveled very little on my own when I spent a semester abroad in Toledo, perhaps only 100 miles by bus or train in the US. By the end of the four months away I had taken the train across Europe, 2013 k (1251 mi) from Germany to Spain and back. My planning and flexible thinking muscles were exercised in those voyages. Those skills have helped me to get across town on public transportation or sketch out the year we spent in Chile. What I learned about myself, that I am able to overcome the obstacles of language barriers, new locations, unfamiliar cultures, contributes to my belief that I can solve problems. When I try something new; I believe I can, I believe I will, and if I cannot, I can choose to try again or laugh at my mistakes and try another path.

I am extremely thankful I had the opportunity to learn Spanish in Toledo. It was more than a language acquisition experience, it changed me in ways I am grateful for every day.

This transformative travel experience has led me to write a book; Supergringa in Spain: A Coming of Age Memoir.

I’ve sent my memoir to a professional editor, in preparation for sending it out to literary agents. Next week, I will receive her comments and spend the week editing the manuscript. I will check in at Fake Flamenco once a day to say hello.

What’s an experience that changed your life for the better? ¡Olé! –Rebecca

Rebecca Cuningham

32 thoughts on “Open the Door: Study Abroad

  1. “This transformative travel experience has led me to write a book; Supergringa in Spain: A Coming of Age Memoir.”
    Well done! Let’s hope you get some positive feedback. Living abroad does give you an insight into a different culture and language. It is a daily challenge. I hope my grandkids get the opportunity to study in another country and broaden their horizons.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I also studied abroad when I was in college, in Paris for a summer. Although I didn’t go out of Paris to explore the rest of France (or Europe), I found my summer still wasn’t enough just to see what there was to offer in Paris alone…all the same, that inspired my desire to return to France, and I ended up living and working there for four years after graduation, which then igniting my love for travel whenever I had work holidays. I have fond memories of those times, and I still hold on to my love for travel!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your origin story of Rebecca Goes Rendezvous; study abroad! How do you think your time overseas changed you? What made you interested in living abroad again? I’m curious to hear if you felt a personal transformation come about after your studies in Paris. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wrote about my study experience years ago (which you can access here:, but long story short, living abroad brought me out of my shy shell, to be more adventurous/spontaneous, and to be bolder in my decisions. I guess my time studying abroad, when I had plenty of time to take long walks all throughout Paris, inspired me to return to continue to explore more, to take more long walks and drink it all in. 🙂

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      2. Thanks, I look forward to reading your post about Paris. Sounds like we had similar reactions to the experience of studying abroad. It was fabulous for my decision making muscles and getting we shy people out of our shells. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely post Rebecca. I too have spent many years living abroad. For me it was coming to America, first the US, then other American countries like Guatemala and Perú. I’ve also wandered eastward towards Turkey and then Greece. Without seeing, without learning languages and the culture of others, one is left with a very thin view of humanity and our world. I wish you the best of luck with your book. All the best,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Francisco. I agree that learning the language(s) of a country is key to understanding another culture and society. You are fortunate to have lived in so many places. It must have been fascinating to see how other Spanish speaking cultures were different and how they were the same in Guatemala and Perú. I will continue to update my memoir publishing progress here on Fake Flamenco. Gracias!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I will certainly look forwards to your updates Rebecca. And yes, they were very different countries, from each other and from mine…
        All the best to you,

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m looking forward to that book. I’m sure you’ll keep us posted. I can’t truly claim to have studied abroad, but I did go to Valencia for a fortnight two years ago for an intensive Spanish course, where I stayed in the home of a woman of my age who spoke no English. It was a fantastic experience. Sadly, things have lapsed a lot in lockdown. I’m no good at online learning so I’m going to have to paddle frantically to stay in the same place. But I’d recommend it to anyone: it’s not a bad idea to challenge yourself to do new and difficult things, even when your 70th birthday is long gone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Margaret. I will contact literary agents this year and if I get no nibbles I’ll self publish next year. I think you living in France for 6 years counts as experience abroad! Your Valencia studies are very commendable and impressive as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Best of luck with your book! I was a teacher abroad for many years (8 yrs, 3 countries) and wrote a book about the experience. I’m now looking for an agent, reluctant to self-publish if I can go traditional. I did engage a professional editor last year and it was so worthwhile to get another perspective. It’s definitely a better book for it. Living in a different culture opens your eyes, heart, and mind.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s called Go Wherever You Want. When I told my son, then in college, what I was planning, he said “go wherever you want… just send me a ticket.” 🙂 I’ll be watching your progress, Rebecca!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Although I’ve been to London, Holland, and Germany on business, I’ve never had the freedom or time to stay and explore like I wanted to. My wife was with me in London and loved it.

    Me…I’ve been fortunate to travel to almost all 50 states (and live in 6) in our own great country. I’m only missing Maine and North Dakota. I’ve worked as a contractor in Georgia, Texas (where I live now) and Seattle for Boeing.

    That last gig in Seattle was my last hoorah before I retired. I drove from Texas to Seattle and back alone. Along the way I took in the beauty of the country and met some great people. Being a contractor, you develop a tight network of folks you can count on no matter what.

    I guess I can say, no matter where you go, if you keep your soul open, you can learn many lessons. But, I’m still holding out for a trip back to Europe. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Traveling on my own to the USA! I loved it and it made me very independent, as now I’ve done it over 20 times! I even got stuck overnight in O’Hare airport! My flight got grounded due to heavy ice and snow! That was scary but I managed! xo

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