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By Madelyn Swenson, Winona State University

Distance, time, change, new place, new people. All of those will get you out of your comfort zone whether you like it or not.

That is why I came. To get out of my comfort zone…something I have never been good at.

But I can honestly say I am so happy I did it. I have learned so much about myself and it changed for the better.

Everyone had their own experiences, good and bad but everyone I know will be going home a changed person.

For me, leaving Minnesota for the first time by myself was the start of all of it. I had never been on a plane let alone to Europe by myself. It was extremely nerve-racking but exciting at the same time. I was lucky enough to have a friend from my university come in the same study abroad trip so I did not have to fly alone. However, it was still new and different and I have learned that I actually don’t mind flying.

Especially after all the trips here that I took as well. And my trip my home.

Just under three weeks into my trip my grandpa got suddenly very ill and passed away. For me, this was a big deal. I have always been close with my grandpa and we had just lost my grandma, his wife, 9 months earlier…almost to the day.

So when he started to get sick I got a last-minute ticket home. Sadly I did not make it back in time. But I stayed home for about a week for the funeral. Everyone here kept telling me that I was strong for coming back or that they were surprised. But its what my grandpa would have wanted me to do.

In the end, however, I ended up shortening my stay by two weeks. Grieve is hard to deal with when you are 4,000 miles from home. I was lucky enough to have a great support system here though. Not only because of my friend from Winona State but also in the people I met.

A friend who was at the same internship as me, my host family, my bosses, and co-workers, and the people who worked for the program. All of them helped me to make it through the 4 weeks I still had. I know that my friend from my internship will be in my life for a very long time.

I will also be leaving Barcelona with a prolonged internship with the magazine I work for. I have loved working for them and it just proves to me that I am going into the right field. I am so excited to keep building my portfolio with them!

All in all, I would recommend studying abroad somewhere before you graduate. I would highly recommend doing an internship too. It really looks good on a resume and you get a little more emersed in the culture in my opinion.