When saying goodbye to your host country, it’s so easy to focus on when you are going to miss. As my time here comes to a close in Colombia, I have had a chance to reflect on my 5 months abroad. I have realized that while the goodbyes are never easy, if you have the right perspective, they can be a great opportunity to evaluate your progress. Instead of focusing on what you will leave behind, it’s best to focus on all of the beautiful experiences, accomplishments, and growth that you will take with you into all your future endeavors.
For those thinking of studying abroad with ISA, or parents who would like to know how their student will benefit from this experience, I hope you find this to be of use in making your decision. Here I have compiled the top 5 takeaways from studying abroad.
1. A fresh perspective
Coming from a different culture and country, the new rules, rituals, and customs will be apparent from the moment you step off the plane. While it may be challenging for some to get used to such a new way of life accompanied by foreign surroundings, this really becomes the best aspect of study abroad. As you begin to get to know your host country, you will find yourself learning more than you could ever imagine about life, people, and even yourself. Things that you once felt were essential to everyday life, may not feel as essential anymore and may even have you questioning why you were needed them in the first place. (For me, this can be seen in terms of a hot shower, makeup, and wifi). Studying abroad has taught me to appreciate the little things in life. You begin to appreciate cold showers to cool off during the heat of the day, no wifi where you have the chance to unplug and enjoy the people around you, good health to allow you to fully enjoy the beauty of your host country, and a warm meal waiting for you at home at the end of a long day. I have learned that as long as I have my health, good company, and a beautiful view, there is nothing more I need.
2. Friends from all over the world
Never will you have to worry about lodging while traveling again, as you will have made friends who live all over the world, which is a pretty nice perk for us college students. Another benefit from having such a diverse group of friends is that they give you a first person perspective into other cultures. You can learn about their cultures, traditions, try some of their traditional food (YUM), while in turn teach others about your own culture. Depending on where you travel, you will even have the opportunity to learn a new language, which is a great way to better understand a new culture. Having friends from so many different places allows you to become more well rounded and aware about the rest of the world.
3. Memories to last a lifetime
Study abroad is what you make it, you have to be willing to sometimes go outside of your comfort zone (within reason) and try new things. You are in this new amazing country full of new people, culture, history, nature, this is your chance to really get to know your country of study. Of course, studying abroad is a time for furthering your studies and you should not lose sight of that while abroad, but you should also make time to talk with locals, explore new areas, and plan a trip within the country. This is a time for education and exploration. The memories you make while abroad are once in a lifetime, you will never have this experience again so that is why cherishing every moment is so important. During your time abroad you will make new friends, try new things, check items off your bucket list, learn more about the world, and create a home away from home.
4. A new found independence
Traveling alone, whether it’s your first time or not, is such an enriching experience. For the first time you make the decisions, you are in charge of reaching point A to point B, and you must rely on yourself. Studying abroad will give you the tools and knowledge that you need when going out into the real world and really allows you to grow as an adult. The person you were when you arrive in that country will change a lot during your time there, but this is to be celebrated! During your time abroad you will be able to learn about yourself and become more independent. For me, I learned so much during these last 5 months in Barranquilla Colombia, from navigating an airport, managing my finances, scheduling doctors appointments, packing, and just taking care of myself. Being away from friends and family, while sometimes challenging, is a great opportunity because it allows you to fully embrace this new culture and country, which in turn leads you to become a more independent adult. The feeling you get when you are able to figure out something on your own is liberating; you feel stronger.
5. The desire to do it all over again
I can speak from personal experience that as much as you will be excited to see family and friends back home, leaving is never easy, and there will be some part of you that will already be planning where you want to go next. Once you get a taste of the world, you are hooked and the idea of studying abroad again, while it may have seemed crazy before this experience, is no longer a question of how, but when. The world is such a big and curious place, whether you are able to study abroad again or simply want to travel in the future, seeing and learning about the world is so important. Plus, there are so many ways nowadays to learn and see other parts of the globe, whether that be study abroad, internships, service-learning, volunteering, etc. There are so many great opportunities out there to explore.
The world awaits…discover it.