I have now been back in the states for three and a half months. That’s almost exactly the same amount of time that I spent studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. Three and half months has been a good amount of time to reminisce on all of my experiences and to assess what those experiences mean to me and what they mean for my future. It has also been a time where I have been able to share those experiences with friends, families, people at Walmart… anyone who will listen, if we are being honest.
I find it interesting that often I have felt as though some of the people whom I have shared the story of my semester abroad with think that my experience was just a semester-long vacation. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the word “trip” used to describe my time in Prague, or how often that all people think to ask about is where I went on my weekend trips and how many of the tourist attractions I was able to see.
The fact is, studying abroad is so much more than a tourist vacation. It shapes your character, your sense of independence, and most importantly, your future. How can spending just a few months abroad have such an impact on someone’s future? Well, think about it. I, and hundreds of other ISA students, spent three and half months in a city where I couldn’t speak the native language. Communication looked completely different and adaptability is crucial when you are lost or have no idea what this restaurant is trying to serve you. For any of you who are close to graduation and applying for jobs, you know the importance of good communication skills and adaptability. Yes, you memorized how Freud developed the psychodynamic perspective (psychology majors, anyone?), but are you able to carry on a conversation with someone? Are you able to steer them towards answering the question you are asking without offending them if they got off-track or if there is a miscommunication?
Aside from communication and adaptability, think about independence. I will confidentially argue that independence learned abroad is a different state of independence than that can be learned anywhere else. When your family and other support systems are literally hundreds of miles away, independence is not just necessary, it is required. You have to learn new systems of transportation, new currencies and handling of money, and so many other things that you couldn’t ask advice for from someone that hasn’t personally experienced these things. This new stage of independence gave me confidence to not let anything hold me back from pursing my dreams. Graduate programs on the opposite side of the country in the U.S., or even one in Europe, are now options for me because I know that I can handle myself independently. This not only helps me to better tap into my personal potential, but it makes me a much more attractive employee or graduate student because of my confidence in my abilities.
Finally, tying communication, adaptability, and independence together is the fact that my world has grown. I no longer only consider experiences from the U.S. when I think about where I want to go in the future and what I want to do. I also don’t just consider the world when it comes to my brainstorming of how I can better serve the world and people I live in. My plans are no longer confined by a shortage of information I had about the world.
To end on the perfect cliché, the world is my oyster now, and I am so much better prepared to approach it after my semester abroad.
Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.