Kelsey Thayer is a student at Central Michigan University, and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
As I started this trip to the Dominican Republic, I had a lot of worries and nervousness about the differences of the culture and norms that I would experience. I was so focused on the differences they had that I was completely surprised as to the differences I have.
I have been studying abroad with eight very different people (nine in total, including me) and this trip has forced me to realize who I am more than ever. Latin American culture can be so different and new that it really makes you realize where you differ. You experience uncomfortable situations and difficulties that not everyone else has. For example, I have learned about how I need to open myself up as a person. This culture is so open and welcoming that it was overwhelming for me, while other people loved it. I loved the independence, while others struggled to feel comfortable away from their loved ones. Everyone on the trip was so different and unique that sharing our struggles mad this experience very intimate and raw, which is truly amazing.
However, there are people who struggle to fully experience such an amazing trip and growth through the process, which is quite a disappointment. Studying abroad is very much an all in or all out situation and seeing people here who are too focused on missing home, or the changes they dislike, shows how much this experience depends on yourself. You can choose to stay home, call your family/significant other/friends, and not embrace the culture, or you can choose to go out and explore, make new friends, and have fun sounding like an idiot while trying to speak another language or getting used to a foreign culture. It all comes from within and everyone has the power to make this choice.
So, some kind words of advice to those who wish to/are studying abroad. Embrace the discomfort, take the time to learn about the things that are different, and challenge yourself to be independent and strong. And, as always, remember that we are where we need to be.
The world awaits…discover it.