We caught up with AIFS alum, Mikayla, who studied abroad on our London, England program back in Spring 2017 where she was a Student Blogger and became an Alumni Ambassador after returning home. Check out what she’s up to now and how spending a semester overseas impacted her life.
What is one of your favorite moments from your study abroad experience?
Before studying abroad, I was a huge homebody. I’ve always loved to travel, but being away from my family was really hard. When I went to London, I realized that there was so much out there for me to discover, and if I really wanted to follow my dreams, I would have to move someday. Studying abroad gave me the confidence to move across the country (from Seattle to Boston) when I graduate from college, where I will attend grad school and hopefully begin my career. I truly don’t know that I would be able to do that without my international experience with AIFS.
How did your study abroad experience impact your career choice and/or lead you to your current job?
I’ve always been fairly shy and preferred a night in by myself than anything else. However, after studying abroad, I’ve expanded my horizons quite a bit. I still love my fair share of Netflix and novels, but I’ve realized how important it is to get out and do things! I’ve become a tourist in the city I was born and raised in. I’m more independent, too, which changes the way I carry myself. I didn’t expect myself to change so much in just a semester, but I’m different for the better!
Have you been back to your study abroad location since your time abroad as a student?
It’s been about a year since I returned from my time abroad, so I haven’t been back yet (although I’m dying to!). I did convince my sister to study abroad (not in London, but in Scotland), and I’m going to visit her in a few months as well as fly to Germany to see my roommate that I met in London. I imagine the experience is going to be emotional, because going abroad the first time was one of the best things I ever did. I also expect it will be like a breath of fresh air, since I’ve been dying to go back to Europe since the moment I left.
Are you still in contact with other students or anyone you met during your time abroad?
I talk to my study abroad squad every single day — and that’s not an exaggeration. I met my best friends in London, and we make sure to keep in touch. They all finally came to my hometown in June!
Are there any activities or traditions from your time abroad that you have continued back in the United States?
When I was abroad, I made a goal of checking one thing off my London bucket list every day — even if it was something as small as going to a new restaurant. At home, I make sure I do something fun that I’ve always wanted to do at least once a month. It’s a good way to keep me out of my comfort zone, which is easy to stay in when you get back to your old routine.
What are your top destinations for future travel?
I was lucky enough to visit almost all of my top countries when I was in Europe. There are still a few on my European list that I hope to check off when I visit my sister in Scotland. I want to venture out of Europe, though, too. Next on my list: An African safari!
Any advice for students who are considering studying abroad?
Just do it. I know that’s easier said than done, but whatever is holding you back from just doing it can — and should — be overcome. You won’t regret it.
Any advice for recently returned study abroad students?
Let yourself get adjusted. So much will have changed during your time abroad, but likely everything at home will have stayed the same — and that will take some getting used to. A lot of your friends and family won’t understand this life-changing experience you just went through, so seek out events on campus or clubs or Facebook groups to give yourself the opportunity to talk to someone who can relate to you. It’s a great way to reminisce and let everything sink in without the fear of annoying the people in your everyday life.