On May 22nd, 2016, I sat in bed, totally in awe about how much my life had changed in just a matter of hours. Just one day before, I was halfway across the world, embarking on cobblestone adventures, surrounded by people speaking a language I barely knew, and having the time of my life. Two flights and a layover later, a sleep deprived me was back on U.S. soil, back to life as normal. I had just come home from studying abroad in Prague for the semester. Four months earlier, I had left for the Czech Republic unaware of the impact my study abroad experience would have on me. And, as my jet-lagged mind mulled over the last four months of my life, I was suddenly aware that I was completely alone in processing my experience. This wonderful, special thing had happened to me and the eleven other people, with whom I had shared this experience, were now scattered across the country and the world. I've now had four months to process my experience. Here are five of the wonderful ways studying abroad has transformed and "ruined" my life thus far:
1.) I’ve become the person who is obsessed with my study abroad experience and bring it up often in conversation. Naturally, the second I stepped off the plane in California, all I wanted to do was talk about the Czech Republic, but I was determined to not be that person who talks about study abroad. You know the person I’m talking about, that girl who is suddenly an expert on French cuisine and culture because she spent a weekend in Paris, ate macarons at Ladurée, walked along the Seine and had the craziest time at this one nightclub. I must admit, it’s been harder to not be that person than I thought. I blame this particular difficulty on the fact that studying abroad was, without a doubt, one of the best things that I have done in my life thus far. I can’t help it!
2.) American habits I’ve always taken for granted seem borderline barbaric. For instance, why do Americans insist on creating traffic jams on escalators? Is it so difficult to stand nicely on the right side of the escalator, so that people who have places to go can pass on the left? Or, why do Americans insist on eating so fast, especially when we go out? Can we all just take our time and actually enjoy whatever we’re shoveling into our mouths? It seriously doesn’t help having the waiter bring the check before you’ve even finished your meal.
3.) School is boring AF. I’ve always loved school, but as of late, I can’t help myself from wishing I was somewhere else. There’s nothing more amazing than taking everything you learn in the classroom and experiencing it firsthand every time you walk outside. For me, that’s what study abroad was, constant immersion and experiential learning. No matter how much I love Brandeis, regular classes just don’t cut it anymore.
4.) I exist in a perpetual state of Wanderlust. I’ve always like traveling. Transnational travel is something I’ve been privileged enough to do often since before I could remember. But ever since studying abroad, my desire to go new places has intensified dramatically. I am constantly dreaming of traveling all over the country and visiting every continent. If someone handed me a million dollars, I would be out of here in a second.
5.) I've become a snobby traveler. Even though I want to travel the world, I am convinced that I will never again be able to do little quickie trips. Besides some regional travel, I did not travel outside of the Czech Republic often while I was studying abroad. It turned out to be one of the best decisions. Sticking in one place allowed me to connect to and appreciate the history, culture and nuances of everyday life in Prague. The city truly became my home. I couldn’t ever imagine traveling again without taking the time to fully explore and immerse myself in the culture I visit. I am convinced I need two weeks at minimum in any given place.
I had an amazing study abroad experience that transformed my understanding of myself and the world around me. But at the end of the day, these grand United States, while far from perfect, are home. I’m thankful for friendly customer service, people who smile in greeting, free water at restaurants, all my favorite foods, and standing showers. No matter how much I want to leave and travel the world, I know I'll always be back.