Sunday, May 18, 2014

Open letter to someone considering a semester abroad

Hi you. I remember when I was in your place. I was so excited about the potential of studying abroad, but had so many questions and fears. 
This is going to be soooo expensive. 
Will this make me graduate later? 
It is going to be so hard being away from my family that long. 
What if no one speaks English? 
I'm going to be so lost. 
Now that I have been here for 5 months, I feel qualified to give you a tried and true answer to all of these questions: what you have to gain from this experience far outweighs what you will lose.
As for the money, take out loans, you will figure it out later (same as the rest of college). The really only extra expense you will have outside a typical semester (rent, food, tuition, transport) is the plane ticket to get there and any extra travels you decide to do. And, let me tell you, travel in Europe is SO cheap when you compare it to the US. The most I ever paid for a round trip plane ticket was about $150, and it felt like a huge splurge compared to my other ones. Once you are in Europe, you can get pretty much anywhere within it pretty easily. 
If you're really that concerned about academics, just remember, worst case scenario is an extra semester. Big deal. Once you graduate, you will be missing the student life anyway, so what's the rush? 
Yes, you'll miss your family/friends at home, but the people you meet will quickly feel like family. And, the invention of FaceTime is amazing and will get you through any rough patch of homesickness you have. 
Yes, you will get lost (many many times), but it's challenges like that which will force you to grow and learn more about yourself than you ever dreamed possible. 
Every so often, you will run into someone who doesn't know English, but you'd be amazed that it is still possible to figure out how to communicate and get what you need. I promise. People DO want to help and will more often than not surprise you with their kindness. 
There is no better way to realize how much you appreciate where you live than leaving. It is so much fun to sit there with people from all over the world and compare differences and similarities. Redefining "normal" is the best thing you can ever do. "Normal" does not truly exist. It is a combination of where you live and a very, very narrow point of view. 
6 months may seem like a long time, but, man does it fly. I can't believe people I have been with for the whole semester are already leaving, and that I will be doing the same in just over a month. Especially when you travel, you realize that coming back to your exchange university really does feel like home. 
Your rented bed feels like your own, your floor mates want to hear all about your trip, are so excited to see you, and the view out the window becomes so familiar. It is amazing how quick you feel like you belong there. 
The most amazing feeling is to lay in bed at the end of a day and just smile, feeling so proud and amazed that you are actually there. You thought about it forever, and now it is real. You did it, and it is the greatest decision you could ever have made. Not a single regret. 20 years old and visiting 12 countries in 6 months. It's crazy, right? Crazy is exactly what I was aiming for. 
I can't wait to look back on life and say "Yeah. I did that." I can't wait to inspire my kids to travel. I can't wait to print and frame pictures I have taken of some of the most beautiful places on Earth and look at them and think "I was there. I took this." It gives me chills to think of all of the amazing things my eyes have seen and all the times that I wish time could just stop so that I could just take in the exact moment I was in for just a little bit longer

I hope you do your research and conclude that all of those sacrifices are worth it. Because they are. It is 100% possible, no matter what your major is. Just do it. It is that simple.

Moments I knew I was exactly where I needed to be...

Just think...this could be you. What are you so afraid of?

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