They say that the best way to overcome fear is to face it. Studying abroad gets you out of your comfort zone in almost every way possible. You are leaving behind your family, your friends, maybe a significant other, and you are heading into a new place where you know no one, have no idea where anything is, and in some cases, no idea how to speak the language that everyone around you is fluent in.
I know that I have been sugarcoating the experience of studying abroad, but I don’t mean to belittle the fact that, at times, it can be a huge challenge. It is not always an easy and carefree. There will be hurdles, but you will be forced to overcome them, and this will make you stronger.
During my time abroad I lost a family member, went through a breakup, and had multiple health issues. These were all things that I had imagined as “worst-case scenarios” before traveling, and had seriously hoped that I would never have to go through.
Dealing with these challenges was hard, particularly because the people I would normally lean on for support were so far away. For the most part, I had to work through these problems alone; something that I was not used to, and had always feared. However, facing these things alone allowed me to feel more deeply, and work through pain more organically. I came out of each negative experience feeling stronger and more understanding.
I was also so lucky to have met some lovely people during my semester abroad who really stepped up when they saw I was struggling. Even though we hadn’t known each other very long, my flat-mates at my dorm in London brought me ginger ale and crackers when I was sick. They hugged me when I lost my grandfather. They lifted me up when I was upset about my breakup. And I did the same for them.
It was in the moments where I felt the most down that I realized that no matter what happened, I would be okay.
5. How to follow my dreams:
Studying abroad gave me a wildly new perspective on how many options I had in life. It made the world seem a lot more accessible, and the path I’d created for myself before studying abroad seem a lot less mandatory. I never would have lived in Amsterdam, started a travel company, moved to London, found an amazing partner, and formed an incredible community of lovely people if I hadn’t taken advantage of the opportunity to study abroad.
At this point I can’t envision what my life would be like if I hadn’t studied abroad; if I hadn’t met the people whom I met during my journey; if I hadn’t tried the foods that I did; overcome the fears that I had; and experienced the ways that other people live. From each place I’ve been, I’ve taken a piece of knowledge or understanding that has changed the way I live my daily life. I am inspired by the multitude of cultures, the endless beauty, and the vastness of opportunity that the world holds.
Now, if you are reading this, have the opportunity, and are trying to decide whether or not to study abroad – I have just one quote to share with you:
“If you don’t do it you will be missing out on one of the most exciting, eye-opening experiences of your life.”