I have returned home from all of my travels. I am amazed at what I accomplished this semester. I completed four courses and an international internship. I was also able to live and adjust to a culture very different from my own. I learned how to truly live in the moment and experience events as they occur.
Since I was conveniently located in Europe, I was also able to travel to seven countries new to me: England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, France, Spain, and Italy. I was also fortunate enough to be able to travel within different areas of some of these countries. Each different area of a country has its own distinct culture. I think that it is so beautiful being able to see how different the world is by experiencing it first-hand. I loved my time abroad. I learned so much more than I could have if I only visited London. Instead, I had the opportunity to adapt and live the way a Londoner truly does. I was able to form my own opinions about UK political matters (such as the upcoming EU referendum).
One of the greater takeaways from this journey is the ability I developed to reflect on my own culture. I was able to view the way Americans are perceived from different parts of the world. This knowledge will definitely help me when I work in international businesses in the future because I can adjust my behaviour to best reflect the receiving culture’s end. For example, I would make sure not to speak as loudly if I were doing business with the U.K. If I was working with co-workers from Italy, I would make sure to be a bit more physical than Americans are used to (maybe a hug instead of a handshake).
Everyone tells you that studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I could not agree more with them. I had the time of my life while learning about new cultures, experiencing new foods, and living in the moment. I did not think too far ahead into the future because that was usually when I would no longer be in Europe.
The past four months have been too amazing to even put into words. Now that I have a passport, I am already planning my next adventure. I believe that life is not meant to be lived in one small corner of the world. We need to explore the world and meet people from different backgrounds. This helps us develop as humans. I learned so much just from experiencing instead of memorizing and reciting, like school often makes us do. Studying abroad taught me how to truly want to live life. I want to be active and not passive.
Things I have learned from studying abroad:
- I can survive in a large city
- Public transportation is easy to use once you get the hang of it. (Even if it is in a different language.)
- There is no such thing as a “must see” attraction (Some of the best memories I made are from accidentally finding something I loved. However, the Trevi fountain is quite incredible and is usually on “must see” lists.)
- It is okay to travel alone. (Traveling alone is freeing and you get to be selfish. You get to do what you want to do and take as much time as you want. This is what truly helps you develop independence. I would definitely recommend trying this at least once.)
- I want to maintain the Spanish that I learned in high school. (Being able to read menus and order food is convenient but being able to understand a different language entirely is incredibly useful.)
- Strangers are very kind. (Not everything is like the Taken Strangers can recommend the best food places to eat and help you try to figure out where you are going because European streets are hard to navigate.)
- Not everything goes according to plan (Adapt, Adjust, Acclimate.)
- Patience and Flexibility will get you much further.
- The world is too big of a place to worry about small things
- Everyone is different in their own ways (some which you will agree with and others that you do not particularly agree with- and this is okay)
- Do something that you are passionate about in life. (Some of the happiest people I met did not make much money, but did what they loved and they were content.)
- Chase your own dreams. (If you want to get something done or get somewhere, you can make it happen on your own.)
- Accept help. It does not make you weak.
- Learn first through observation, then participation.
- Smile more.
As Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes once said, “I’ve had the time of my life.” Now it is time for me to move on and cherish the past. It has definitely shaped the way I am going to view the present and future. Study abroad if you get the opportunity; it’s so worth it.
Goodbye UFIC blog readers.