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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Alabama chapter.

The day before applications closed for spring study abroad last year, I decided I was done staring at an empty suitcase. I picked a program that caught my eye, and the reason might have been that Thailand was on the list. I had heard that Thailand was safe for solo travelers, and I honestly wanted to move as far across the world as I could. 

I had not even looked up a photo of Chiang Mai, Thailand until I was sitting in study abroad orientation and I realized I was severely underprepared and perhaps in over my head. Then, as time passed and COVID19 cases rose, I was never fully convinced that I was going to make it out of the country. Reality did not set in until two days before my flight, and I realized I should probably pack my bags. 

Over the course of one semester, I swam with baby sharks, jumped backwards off waterfalls and was woken up by hungry elephants. I trekked jungles in the foothills of the Himalayas and meditated with monks in a forest treehouse. What really took me by surprise, however, was the person I became. Yes, I learned things from courses I took at Chiang Mai University, but I also found who I was when I discovered I can be anything I want when I put my mind to it. There is no feeling more self-assuring than that. 

And I’m not alone in this. A survey by the Institute of International Education of Students (IES) found that 95% of surveyed students admitted that studying abroad served as a catalyst for increased maturity, 96% reported increased self-confidence, and 95% said it had a lasting impact on their worldview. Studying abroad is proven to be life-changing, and there’s no better time than now. 

The perfect time to travel the world is now, and our University has uniquely expansive options. A quick program search will show you dozens of programs that can fit your desires. If this is too intimidating, scheduling an appointment with a study abroad advisor can answer all your questions.

The most astounding part of it is that these resources have been at our fingertips this entire time. 

Now I may be on the verge of becoming whatever the Thailand equivalent is of the girl who goes to France once and comes back wearing a beret, however, I’m also more confident, less anxious, and more open-minded. 

So, if you are on the fence, I’m here to tell you to take the leap. It is so worth it. 

Rachel is studying political science, marketing, and public policy at the University of Alabama, pursuing a career in civil rights law and politics. When she's not busy with school and writing, she advocates for survivors of interpersonal violence through work at the Women and Gender Resource Center and her nonprofit, End The Silence. In her free time, she runs, spends time outdoors, and watches bad tv.