A Complete 180

From the moment I boarded the plane to Innsbruck and watched the ground shrink beneath me as the plane ascended into the clouds, I wondered about the person I would be when my study abroad experience was over. It hadn’t even begun, and I was already imagining the end. Who would I be? I had heard from numerous people who had studied abroad in years past that the experience changes you, but I just didn’t really believe it. How can someone change and grow so much in just six weeks? Only a week has gone by since I’ve been back home, and I’ve known long before now that those people were right. I have grown in ways that I couldn’t have even hoped for.

Innsbruck was a dream. It definitely almost feels like that’s all it was. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think that I dreamt the whole thing up. I picture myself walking down the streets of Innsbruck or navigating foreign countries by myself, and I almost can’t believe that it actually happened. But it was real, and I can feel its effects internally. I am so much stronger and so much more confident about who I am and what I’m capable of.

Innsbruck forced me completely out of my comfort zone. When I got there I was a shy girl who didn’t know anyone. I was in a foreign place with absolutely no friends, and I was terrified that I would never make any. I knew long before I even went to Innsbruck that this circumstance would be challenging for me, and it was one of the reasons that I wanted to do it so badly. The first day I got there I saw that basically everyone else in the program, all 300 students, already had friends that they had come with. I pictured myself being alone the entire trip. But I wasn’t. I met some of the most incredible people and made some of the greatest friends I have ever had. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything, and I’m so grateful that I had the courage to do it.

Sometimes I think you have to be truly lost before you begin to find yourself. I think it’s only when you put yourself in a completely unfamiliar situation that you really start to understand who you are and where you really want to go. I had gotten so comfortable with my friends and my life at UF that I lost the drive and yearning for new experiences that I had always had, and Innsbruck brought those characteristics to life again. I think my biggest fear about returning to UF is that I’ll slip back into the person that I used to be. I don’t think I ever want to be that person again. I don’t ever want to be too comfortable about where I am to want to move forward. I don’t want to be afraid to talk to new people or to have new experiences. I don’t want my fear of failure to prevent me from trying new things.

On the plane ride back to Tampa, I sat next to a girl who was on her way home from studying abroad in Florence for six weeks. She asked me if there was anything I regretted about my experience abroad or anything I wished I had gotten to do. It only took me a few seconds to realize that my answer was no. There is nothing I would change about my experience. I didn’t let anything stop me from accomplishing everything I had set out to and from having the absolute time of my life.

I never knew it would be so hard to come back. No one had ever told me. I’ve mentally separated my life into two parts: my life before Innsbruck and my life after Innsbruck. I’m still trying to figure out how to connect the two.

I can honestly say that I fell in love this summer. I fell in love with a beautiful country, a beautiful city, beautiful people and a beautiful culture. My grandfather always says that one trip must end before another can begin. Leaving Innsbruck was one of the hardest things to deal with, but I know he’s right. I know now that I will always go back to Innsbruck. It will always be a part of me. But there are still so many other places for me to discover and experience, and this is just the beginning.






One thought on “A Complete 180

  1. Kortney, You write so beautifully and I enjoy reading how well you express your self. The time Papa and I got to spend with you will always hold a special spot in my heart!
    Love you lots and miss you more,
    Your Grma

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