Imagine: You need to figure out which bus to take to get back to your host university. You step out into the snow and realize not only do you not speak the language, but you also have never used public transportation. You get on the bus. You sit nervously and wait until you arrive at your host university. You made it.
Studying abroad is undeniably exciting... and honestly kind of addicting. I say that, having just recently returned from my third study abroad program. In the summer after my freshman year, I found myself studying HIV transmission and social conflict in Stellenbosch, South Africa. It was there that I realized my love of travel.
I came home at the end of that summer and managed to get myself to inch through another semester of classes, counting down each day until I was able to go on another adventure. Before I had even gotten home that summer, I knew I wanted to study abroad again. The countdown ended the spring semester of my sophomore year when I traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia. There I chased my Ukrainian heritage, ate more blini and pierogi than I could have dreamt of, and saw more snow than I have seen in my entire life.
On May 18th, 2019 when my student visa sadly expired, and rather than come home I did some independent travel until I found myself in another study abroad program in Jerusalem, Israel. I assisted in an active archaeological dig and studied political and social tensions.
It’s hard for me to think back to a time when I had no stamps in my passport. These stamps have become a part of who I am. They show me the value of things you cannot learn until you go abroad: learning new languages, tasting new foods, collecting stories, gaining a new reality. They show me the importance of trying to understand your place in the world.
Studying abroad is very different from anything else in your undergraduate career. You have the opportunity to uproot your life, pack your bags, and just go. To go somewhere new and different. To go connect with your heritage. To go somewhere you’ve always dreamt of going. To go learn that everything you do, every action you take, and every new person you meet will become a part of your life.