On January 24th, 2017, I boarded British Airways. I knew where I was going, but I had no idea what the next four months had in store.
Growing up, I was a social kid always on the move. By sun down, my biggest fear was being away from home. That fear wasn’t challenged until my first year of college, which forced me to get out of my comfort zone. As junior year approached, I decided these fears would no longer run my life, and signed up to spend the Spring semester of 2017 in Rome, Italy. After spending four months abroad, here are a few pieces of advice I think you should consider:
1. Face your fear!
Don’t let fears be the reason you graduate college saying, “I wish I studied abroad when I was in school.” The relationships you gain, the cultural understanding you inherit, and the self-growth you endure are something no fear should take from you. Will Smith says it best, “on the other side of your maximum fears, are the best things in life!”
2. Be open-minded.
Try starting your semester with a completely open mind. If you let preconceived thoughts carry into your semester, you might not fully experience something for what it is. The people in your host country are more inviting then you think. The locals will become friends, and you will better understand how their daily routines operate, and why. You might even become a local! Having an open mind will grow creativity within, and you will find so much piece and happiness through it all.
3. Explore and ask questions.
Travel as much as you can! Don’t be afraid to pack clothes in a backpack and hop on a plane or train. This will become a normal weekend routine, and you will have the opportunity to do what most people only dream of doing. If you see a place that makes you curious, explore it, ask questions, and learn everything you can about it because although you may have access to it for the entire semester, that time will fly by and you may never have the chance to see that place again.
Studying abroad will change you in ways; you will gain life-long friends, and have a deep-rooted, global understanding. Trust me when I say, it will change you for the better. I’m so thankful I stepped on that plane because I have three guys (study abroad roommates) who are now brothers, life-long memories, and thanks to going half-way around the world with AIFS, my fiancé. My biggest challenge to all of you is to step out of your comfort zone, speaking from experience you will embark on the journey of a lifetime.