3 Things I Learned About Myself While Abroad

Annika Mikkelson is a student at the Colorado State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in London, England.

I’ve previously written about the importance of studying abroad for the world we live in. In a similar way, it’s also important in helping to learn about yourself. It’s a widely accepted belief that when you challenge yourself, you become more capable of learning and growing. And more than anything else, that’s why I came here. I wanted to learn more about who I was and what I was capable of when I opened myself up to new possibilities and experiences.

A beautiful hike I took in Tenerife, somewhere I wouldn’t have been able to travel to had I not been studying in London.

I’m more resourceful than I’ve ever given myself credit for.

You come to expect certain things when you live in the same area and do the same things for a long period of time. Back home, there was nothing really out of my comfort zone to test me as far as problem solving, or force me to face new or different obstacles that would require me to find my own solution. I found that here. I’ve gotten lost, encountered language barriers, had to adapt to a completely new education system, and I’ve been better for all of it. It becomes easier to believe all the old adages and clichés, especially “you don’t know what you can do until you try.” You face the next challenge, and then the next one, and the one after that, and soon enough, they don’t scare you like they used to. Even if they do, it has become easier to have faith in myself and know that whatever it is, I’ll figure it out. Nothing could have reinforced that faith like studying abroad did.

Family is one of the most important things in the world to me.

This is something I think I always knew on some level, but the experience of being away from family longer than I have ever been before really made me realize just how much I value them. It was very difficult for me, at first, to recognize my life without them being there almost every day. This was something I had to do though, for myself to grow as an individual, and while I’ve been able to do that immensely it’s also made me grasp how important it is for me to always make time and space for those I care about.

Studying abroad is one way to expose yourself to the wonderful conundrum of both realizing what you appreciate about home and expanding into what you love about your host city.

I need to think less, experience more.

It’s small, but makes a big difference. Making a plan is always good, but there comes a point when adhering too rigidly to your expectations of how something should be hinders your ability to enjoy what it is. “Just be where you are,” as my mother would say. Studying abroad taught me that opening myself up to new experiences and not holding too high a standard for how or what they should be, is the best way to authentically gain insight into a place and it’s culture.

The view from walking under Tower Bridge in London.

The world awaits…discover it.

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