Studying abroad lives up to the hype

What I’ve learned from four months abroad

Since coming to college, I have always heard people describe their study abroad experiences as “the trip of a lifetime” or “the best few months of my life.” Admittedly, when it was finally my turn to leave for London, I was nervous that my semester would not live up to the hype.

But now that I am wishing that the next – and last – week could go on forever, I have come to truly understand the logic behind such powerful statements.

Trafalgar Square, the center of London

Trafalgar Square, the center of London

Spending four months in a different country, away from all that is familiar and regular, is a uniquely invigorating opportunity, I have found. Of course, everyone has a different experience when they are abroad, and not every day will be the best of your life. But collectively, as a whole, I have enjoyed every experience, both the good and the bad, more than I ever expected.

Of course, being able to go out without worrying about fake IDs or illegal drinking was a wonderful change, and meeting new friends while traveling to some of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen was a great time. But what I have loved most about my time abroad were the challenges – both expected and unexpected – of being on my own and making choices about where to go, what to do, and how to live.

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True, it’s not as if London is entirely different from the US, and I have received plenty of support from ND in navigating the transition. But living so far away from home, with a five-hour time difference to interfere with communication can feel isolating at times. But I enjoyed the challenge of dealing with adult situations – from buying groceries and cooking dinner to budgeting and planning a weekend trip in Dublin – on my own, for the first time. On paper they seem like simple things, but in practice it was much more difficult than I thought it would be.

But together, the challenges and the exciting moments helped me to grow and become more confident in my idea of myself and what is important to me. In traveling I had to decide where I wanted to go, how much to spend, and who to go with. All of these decisions together helped to shape the wonderful experiences that I had, and taught me more about how to be responsible with my money and time. Especially where school work and traveling coincided, time management was key to making sure I didn’t lose track of “study” in study abroad.

But perhaps my biggest take away from the time I’ve spent exploring the world, is simply to know how much is out there.

Every trip I took and everything I did around London helped me to appreciate how big the world is and how many cool things we can do in our lives, if we so choose. It inspired me to continue to explore, and to make the most of the time I have!

St. Paul's Cathedral, a London landmark

St. Paul’s Cathedral, a London landmark

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