Studying abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic

University of Dayton student finds silver lining in the COVID world, photo courtesy of Claire Coleman. 

Claire Coleman
Contributing Writer

The first two-and-a-half months of my time studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain, a beautiful city of roughly 140,000 people in the Spanish province of Castilla y León, was an absolute dream come true.

New friends from a program in Lisbon

I spent my days relaxing in the Plaza Mayor sipping on coffee and trying various tapas, staying up too late and mingling with the local university students in Spanish-style bars, or rushing through the city to get to the Salamanca bus station on time so I could make it to the Madrid airport for a weekend full of travel.

A beautiful view Salamanca’s two cathedrals

Through all of these experiences, I was finally blossoming into the true person that I am. Every day I noticed new aspects of personal growth within myself and there was never a moment a huge smile was not plastered on my face. 

However, on March 12 at 3:30 am, I frantically woke up to my phone ringing. I had hundreds of texts and too many missed calls to count.

My heart sank and I realized that the time had finally come.

Because of COVID, my parents had booked me a flight back to Ohio, and I had less than 24 hours left in my new home. I will not dwell on just how bitter I felt, because everyone had at least one amazing thing taken from them because of the pandemic, but to sum it up, I felt like my world was crashing down and all of the personal growth I had accomplished was about to be halted. 

When I got home I quarantined for too long to count, which gave me lots of time to think.

I have come to the conclusion that through every obstacle comes a silver lining, whether it is obvious or not. A few of my silver linings are that I at least got to experience two-and-a-half months in my favorite city, that I made many lifelong friends, that I acquired much new knowledge of the Spanish language and culture, and that I have personally blossomed into a new person: more positive, dedicated, independent and intellectual. In fact, all of the personal growth did not halt. It simply brought me to new realizations.

Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor at night

I urge students who are in my situation to put the bitterness aside and search for their silver lining.

I urge students whose study abroad experiences were completely cancelled because of COVID to seek out potential opportunities to go abroad once the pandemic has subsided.

I urge people to look at my study abroad story and recognize that growth can be found in various places of life. You just have to seek it out.