Let me tell you what I wish I had known when I was young and just starting college: We only have control over whether or not we choose to study abroad.
I have dreamed of going abroad for forever. I had never left the country before. When COVID hit and we were forced to quarantine indoors for months, I realized that life is so short and can change in an instant. When the quarantine was finally lifted, I knew that I was ready to soak up all the opportunities life has to offer.
As my study abroad comes to an end, I reflect back on my time spent overseas. It has been the best decision I have ever made in my entire life. For the past three months, I studied in Valencia, Spain. I learned about Spanish history and different aspects of its culture, and I have made a ton of friends along the way. Not only did I take classes, I also took on an internship at Bounsel, an end-to-end contact management firm. In this internship I gained some knowledge about different marketing strategies and the legal tech industry.
I ate some delicious Spanish food, danced the night away at some of the best clubs I have ever been to in my entire life, watched movies with my study abroad group, bought more clothes than I will be able to fit in my suitcase to bring back home, and so much more.
The best part about studying in Europe is how easy it is to travel! Every weekend, I travelled to a new place and had the absolute time of my life. I went to Amsterdam, Netherlands, where I did a canal ride through the city and visited the iconic Keukenhof Gardens to smell the flowers.
I flew to London, United Kingdom, in which I won lottery tickets to see Heathers the Musical on West End in the front row and walked more miles than ever throughout the enormous city.
I ate gelato in front of Trevi Fountain and went clubbing in Rome, Italy.
I even took a solo trip to Paris, where I climbed the steps to the top of the Eiffel Tower, where the view was absolutely breathtaking.
Three months later, I am now about to head back home to my life in the United States. I am beyond grateful to leave Europe knowing that I have gained a new, better global cultural perspective, more independent, and wiser than before. I think everyone should get to experience studying abroad. It is strange because somehow, it is hard to explain how I am a different person because of the experience, but I know in my heart that I am. Going abroad is truly one of the best things you can do for yourself. You may not be able to control who lives or dies or who tells your story, but you can control whether or not you study abroad.
Aubrey Caster is a college student at University of Tennessee Knoxville. He is an ISA Identity & Inclusion Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Valencia, Spain.