Study abroad. It’s a term thrown around a lot at university and, for the first two years of uni life, it’s a mystical and ambitious goal for many students. However, those determined enough to qualify for their year abroad will most likely tell you it was one of the most amazing experiences of their life. So, what makes moving thousands of miles from home, leaving your family and friends behind and living in a totally foreign culture for a year so life-changing?
I was one of those people who knew from a relatively young age that I wanted to study in America as part of my degree; to the extent that it was a major factor in deciding which universities I put on my UCAS application. Therefore, you would think that I was well prepared for the onslaught of emotions I would feel as I said goodbye to my family and friends and travelled 5,000 miles and 5 time zones to Charleston, South Carolina.
The truth is that although I was incredibly excited whilst waiting to take off from Heathrow, I was also really anxious. I had started questioning my motives for moving to a new continent, with new people and new customs a while before, and was concerned that I had given up a perfectly comfortable and happy life in Nottingham. However, being a student is not about comfort, it’s about taking new opportunities by the balls and experiencing what the world throws at you. This realisation is the primary reason why I am so glad that I checked that mental luggage and persevered through delay after flight delay.
“FaceTime is a beautiful thing”
What I have learned to accept is that moving abroad does not mean leaving your life in the UK behind. FaceTime is a beautiful thing and although a 10 minute life-update with your mum here and a 2 hour life-briefing with your friend there seem like common occurrences in our age of digital interaction, those moments help keep you grounded whilst a wealth of new and exciting opportunities present themselves to you, wherever you may be. As soon as you recognise and accept the unique events that can only be experienced if you embrace the fears and say “yes” at every opportunity, you will find that life becomes so much more interesting.
So far, I have been evacuated from a hurricane’s wrath to a wood cabin in the Blue Ridge mountains, tailgated at an American football game, took part in Dutch Christmas traditions, been to countless frat parties (they’re just like the movies), taken up power yoga and experienced a week’s worth of all-American Halloween celebrations; all this in 4 months with Spring Break yet to come!
“There is still a fair bit of work to do whilst studying abroad”
Deep down I always knew that studying abroad would be one of the best things I ever undertook, both for my CV and also for my personal maturity. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a fair bit of work to do whilst studying abroad, as the name would suggest, but the subtext of taking on, and conquering, the mountain that is living in a new culture says volumes to future employers about you and your mindset. Taking on the year-long commitment of studying abroad is a very brave move, but one that could also be incredibly rewarding. Of course, there are moments when you are bound to miss home, but knowing that those moments are only human, and not letting them hold you back is a key insight which will allow you to make the most of what is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“I made some wonderful memories”
Studying abroad may not be for everyone, but it has definitely changed my life for the better. The experiences I have embraced and the people I have met mean that not only have I made some wonderful memories, I have also ear-marked loads of holiday destinations to visit new friends! I am so pleased that I took a chance on myself because it is definitely paying off.