During my junior year, I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad in London through ISA. I did have expectations about my experience, hoping it would expand my worldview, make me more independent, or challenge my boundaries. However, my four and a half months in Europe changed my life in ways that I could have never predicted.
1. Studying abroad gave me the confidence to be an independent human being.
For me, moving across the world on my own was one of the scariest, yet rewarding things I have ever accomplished. These months were full of firsts: my first time riding an airplane, first time seeing another continent and first time living with complete strangers. Going into my semester abroad, I wondered if I would be able to make it through every obstacle. However, being on my own in another country was empowering and ignited a stronger sense of self than I could have imagined. With every first, I learned to be more confident, and with every success, I learned to be more independent. Every challenge turned into an opportunity for me to become a better version of myself.
Soon into my semester abroad, I found myself enjoying my independent explorations and adventures. I was able to take a train to a museum after class, plan weekend trips with my new friends, or walk to a park to do my homework. Even now, I find myself enjoying my independence and alone-time while traveling and in my routine back home.
2. Studying abroad improved my problem-solving skills.
Traveling rarely goes exactly according to plan. It is inevitable that one will run into challenges when traveling and living abroad. For instance, the morning before my flight from London to Vilnius, Lithuania, my bank information was stolen. Unwilling to cancel my trip, I frantically searched for temporary solutions. As I was limited to cash, I traded my pounds for euros and enjoyed my trip frugally. From delayed trains to language barriers, one must always be alert and ready to move to “Plan B.” Thankfully, I found a great group of friends to travel with! With teamwork and a new sense of adventure, we all made it through every unforeseen circumstance.
I notice these strengthened problem-solving skills in my everyday life. From fixing a broken chair to navigating a new public transportation system, my problem-solving skills were continuously exercised and improved throughout the semester.
3. Studying abroad made me a better communicator.
Living in a new place means learning a new culture. With new social norms, and for many, a new language, studying abroad challenges you to be a better communicator. Not only did I learn to adapt to a different culture’s social interactions and norms, but I also learned to be a better digital communicator. To maintain relationships with family and friends back home, it was important for me to stay connected. This meant countless phone calls, video chats, and even written letters. Holding myself accountable for maintaining that communication allowed me to become a more effective and engaging speaker and writer.
4. Studying abroad inspired me to be more environmentally conscious.
During my travels abroad, I became aware of other countries’ recycling and sustainability policies. This inspired many small changes in my daily habits, including using reusable bags at the grocery store, carrying a good quality water bottle over single-use plastics, walking more frequently and taking public transport when possible. Although these seem like simple changes, becoming self-aware of how our actions affect the environment is incredibly important in inspiring larger changes for a healthier planet.
5. Studying abroad connected me to my family roots.
Near the end of my trip, I had the opportunity to visit family in Sweden. Having access to my roots was incredibly inspiring and an experience I will be forever grateful for. I even met new family members by visiting important family locations such as my great grandfather’s settlement. I now have a greater understanding of where I come from, which is something I reflect on and think about every day.
Now that I’m home in Minnesota, I’m often nostalgic for my semester abroad in London. I have little tokens of memorabilia, from concert tickets to train passes, and these simple souvenirs transport me back to the amazing experiences that changed me for the better.