How I Changed While Studying Abroad

When contemplating my study-related experiences abroad, I feel overwhelmed with diverse emotions. Undoubtedly, these adventures have been somewhat life-altering for my personal development, for they have influenced me in ways that are demanding to articulate. Looking back, I could certainly highlight the value of linguistic and cultural exposure, providing me with the language and communication skills to interact with people from various backgrounds. To avoid usual clichés, however, I prefer to explore the most recognizable changes in my mindset and outlook on life. In fact, instead of placing emphasis on linguistic competences and cultural awareness, I am more intrigued by the perhaps unexpected discoveries I made during my three exchange semesters.

In retrospect, studying in Austria was a pivotal phase in my adult life. In my beloved Vienna, I became more aware of my desire to live surrounded by beauty and grandeur, underlining the significance of architecture and nature for my well-being. I was hungry for history, constantly absorbing exquisite details around me. My yearning for aesthetic wonders was intensified by the proximity and accessibility of compelling languages, cultures, cities and landscapes. There in the heart of Europe I properly discovered the appeal of traveling alone. In blissful solitude, I was bewildered by the pleasures of wandering around and marveling at both cultural and geological phenomena, a craving that has never left me. These solitary trips clarified my values and increased my thirst for knowledge, later inspiring me to pursue alternative academic interests.

In Germany, besides continuing to foster my profound fascination with the German language, I broadened my perspectives in several areas. In addition to my infatuation with the historical charms of Berlin, I became more convinced of my academic aspirations, leading me to change my major later on. Indeed, I gained thought-provoking knowledge of engaging themes, combining my linguistic passions with intellectually stimulating pursuits. Hence, I felt compelled to study diligently and systematically, devoting a considerable amount of time to voracious reading. During this restless yet gratifying experience, I attained a deeper understanding of both historical and current topics relevant to me. As a result, I became more concerned with my position on a global scale, conscious of my possibilities and privileges. Similarly, I was frequently preoccupied with my cultural attachments as well as sentiments of belonging. 

In South Korea, while dedicating myself to intensive studies of the Korean language, I also felt the need to develop as a writer, highlighting my growing research ambitions. As much as I was intrigued by the local culture and mesmerized by the mountains, I partially felt like I was regressing by spending time and money abroad instead of immersing myself in the writing process of my thesis, having postponed it for so long. Consequently, seeking fulfillment in transnational exposure can simultaneously act as a form of procrastination. While exploring the streets of Seoul, I also engaged in deeper self-reflection regarding my national and cultural identity than ever before. Although I took pleasure in the distance from my home country, I also experienced an increased affection for my first language.

In addition to linguistic and cultural enrichment, these three transitory phases have enhanced my appreciation for fleeting moments, thus adhering to both instrumental and sentimental value. Although I was also blessed with cross-cultural encounters and unanticipated friendships, I deem my personal advancements the most blatant rewards of my exchange semesters. Navigating a foreign country alone is indeed a captivating and vitalizing experience, more addictive than I could have envisioned. Hence, I feel fortunate to have been able to embrace these opportunities. In terms of personal growth, I have certainly welcomed the freedom to explore the world, thus nourishing my dreams and ambitions.