What I Learned From My Study Abroad

At DePaul, we have the amazing opportunity to take advantage of a plethora of study abroad programs. Whether you travel for a whole year or just for 10 days, everyone comes back to Chicago with so many new experiences and insights -- including me!

The spring quarter of my freshman year I was able to be in a Focal Point class that traveled to Peru for 10 days at the end of the quarter. During the school year, my class learned about global ethical production -- but focused on South America -- learning about the treatment of workers and how commodities are truly created. Every Friday morning we would learn about ethical production, traveling abroad, and some history of Peru all to get ready for 10 days of hands-on learning in the country. While the program was only for 10 days, I learned so many life lessons I could not live without.

The best experiences are the ones you don’t have your phone for

Before leaving for Peru, I knew that I would not have access to my friends and family in the US all day every day as I was so used to before, and the thought scared me a bit at first. However, after the second day of the trip (and the first where I had left my phone on airplane mode all day), I realized that not having my phone and being distracted was such a freeing feeling. I was able to truly focus on the people we met, the places we visited, and the food we ate without my phone buzzing every couple of minutes.

YOLO (seriously)

While I did not go out and get yolo tattoo to match Zac Efron after coming back from Peru, the entire trip did force me to realize all the amazing experiences that are in the world and how I only have about 80 more years to experience them. I never believed in bucket lists until I traveled to my first wonder of the world (Machu Picchu) and understood why it really is a wonder. There are so many different cultures and countries and people and landmarks and beautiful places to experience that you really need to take the time to see them while you still have it.

Don’t wait to be ready

I officially know five words/phrases of Spanish (three of which I learned while in Peru), and if I took the time to actually process this fact before getting on a plane, I would have been scared out of my mind. I was not ready to travel to Peru (I didn’t even think I would be accepted into the program at all), but that is what made it the best experience of my life. I was in a country incredibly different than the US with people I didn’t know very well and knew no Spanish and came out with the most positive experience of my life.

Everything happens for a reason

I was only able to apply for this specific study abroad because just a few months earlier I was rejected from a different study abroad program. Even though I felt a bit sore still from the first rejection, I (after some long talks with my friends) figured I should say “screw it” and apply for this program because the worst I could receive would be another no. Instead of a no, I felt like an X-Factor contestant getting a yes from Simon Cowell when I received an email saying I got in, and because of this, I met my future roommate, some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life, and formed strong bonds with people I already knew. I was the happiest I’ve ever been for the 10 days I was in Peru, and it’s all because of the first rejection.

You haven’t lived until you’ve been in a cab in Peru

Just trust me on this one.


If you can do one thing for yourself in college, please apply for a study abroad. This may be the only time in your life you can travel to that one country or see that one landmark or eat that one type of food, so you might as well go for it (and take lots of pictures when you do)!