My finals are over, I’ve passed my 5.5 month mark, and I’m currently sitting on a one way flight to Boston. It’s official; my study abroad experience is over. For now, all I can say for certain is that I am exhausted, amazed, and above all else grateful. I started this journey having travelled to a few states and Canada; my world knowledge was limited to travel magazines and Anthony Bourdain shows. Now, I head back to the states with so much more life experience and most importantly self-confidence.
Before I take the easy route of only reporting the honeymoon stage of studying abroad I have to mention that it was tough at times, painfully tough. Turns out having every sign written in a strange language and never being able to eavesdrop on strangers is overwhelming. You feel like an alien, debriefed before leaving the Mothership only to land and realize you know nothing of this country, these people, or even this continent. Those culture shock charts you see over and over again during pre-departure – only to immediately brush off – are so accurate I want to tattoo it on every prospective study abroad student. However, it’s in those lows and on those adventures where vital self-growth occurs. No matter what you feel or what happens, you are abroad and constantly learning from every single experience or encounter. It’s a huge act of courage to uproot your life and immerse in a new, weird culture. Whether you’re getting hopelessly lost in Brussels or falling in love with city over a pint or taking an extremely nerve-racking oral exam this semester or year is so incredibly important to your academic and personal life now and forever.
I haven’t fully comprehended the impact of what I’ve just done, but I’ve done it. I’m flying back home safe and sound with a massive new postcard collection that backs up my incredible amount of memories. The ups and downs are natural and it’s that process that makes this opportunity so special. It’s a unique chance to exchange cultures for a brief amount of time with no strings attached, to just explore and learn week after week. I can’t tell you where to go or how long because that’s such a personal preference, plus cities tend to show themselves differently to different people. So, I urge you with all my being to go abroad if there’s any possible way you can. Go and see for yourself what I can’t hope to put into words.