Let’s Talk about Study Abroad

Maybe it was the time of your life. Or maybe you are glad to be finished. Either way, everyone tells you that you will learn a lot about yourself while studying abroad, but they neglect to mention how you can discuss that infinite wisdom when you return from studying abroad.

Although it’s been almost a year since I returned from Ireland, I still find myself talking about my experiences and trying to figure out the lessons I learned. Especially when I first returned, I was trying to work through my experiences on my own, so I found myself frequently mentioning “Well when I was in Ireland…” stories. This was sadly much to the chagrin of family and friends, who while excited for me, did not want to spend every waking minute listening to me rehash details of my trip.

For those who did listen to many of the stories, my experiences ended up becoming a standard to which my listeners compared their own experiences.  For this I felt horrible, while I truly enjoyed my experience, I never meant to influence anyone else’s reactions to their experiences.

In trying to understand my experiences, I began journaling and scrapbooking in playing out the chaos on a page. This approach was a lot better because I could work through situations and I was able to reorganize thoughts I’d had and captured through pictures into larger beliefs and values I realized were important to me.

Once I returned to Connecticut College, I was offered another avenue to discuss how studying abroad deeply impacted me.  Through a new program designed by a CISLA scholar with the new Walter Commons Global Engagement Center, I became a peer mentor for students who were going to Ireland the next semester. As a peer mentor, I was able to help other students prepare for the experience of living abroad. I was able to share tips I’d picked up over the course of the semester. It’s a lot easier to explain tips through short anecdotes, to those who may find themselves in similar situations, rather than trying to impose your self-discovered wisdom on those who aren’t asking.

While you may want to talk non-stop about that time you missed the bus and ended up having an awesome meal at a local pub or the time you tried to egg the neighbors, you have to be able to read your audience. Knowing to whom you’re speaking can be vital in determining when they have heard enough because they may not say it themselves.