Cecilia Reis, March 30th, 2022
Almost everyone has heard the trope about finding yourself abroad. The truth is that the cliche comes from some truth. It is amazing to see how much your life can change at this age in a span of months. I’ve made lifelong friendships with people around the world who I still talk to on a regular basis, had a friend visit from Canada, landed my dream job, and my roommate became my best friend–all as a result of my semester abroad. All of which have been incredibly exciting. None, however, have been more revealing than two major lessons:
- Fulfillment comes from relationships.
- Seeing the world through the lens and experiences of others will be transformative in becoming a more well-rounded person.
For starters, I was nervous about studying abroad because I was afraid of being alone. Being surrounded by incredible friends was the single determinant to making the experience manageable and enjoyable. Having a network of support was so important that I urge anyone to make it a priority. It can be hard, but opening yourself up to opportunity means you may find that network in the most surprising places.
The bureaucratic experience of studying abroad is hard. I won’t lie. From course approval to opening a bank account in France, there seems like there are countless hoops to jump through. It may feel incredibly frustrating in the moment. The biggest advice I can give in these moments is to exercise empathy. The person on the other side of that French bank desk or school administrator does not know the long road you have taken to get here and we should not expect them to. After all, they have their own challenges to go through (like dealing with the back-end of exchange students or University bureaucracy). Taking this approach will allow you to focus on and internalize the good and lessons, rather than cutting the learning short because of something as futile as frustration.
Overall, the lessons of my study abroad extended beyond the beautiful scenery and language. They are ones that I will continue to exercise in every dimension of my life moving forward. They also made me prioritize travel … travel is really fun. 🙂