What I Learned About Myself From Studying Abroad

I have never left the country, let alone fly on an airplane, before I went to study abroad in Europe. I had life changing firsts in my time overseas, such as my first sip of café con leche, first experience at a nightclub, and first time using public transportation as a primary means of getting around. Naturally, the experiences that have stuck with me the most since returning home are the ones that still impact me. I have changed so much since my time abroad. During my time overseas, I was able to find out a little bit more about myself and what I stand for.

 

I learned how independent I truly am and how that can come in handy in times of distress. From living without cell phone service for four months to taking week long solo trips, I learned how to become a superb navigator and how to travel in the most efficient way possible for me. Additionally, I was able to learn how to become more comfortable with myself  and that it is perfectly okay to not be with someone 24/7. This gave me the opportunity to put my wants first and do what I want to do by my own ways. I learned how to trust myself and that it is okay to give into temptations.

 

I learned how to appreciate what I have and the world we live in. I never truly understood how beautiful the world was until I gazed at the twinkling lights on the Eiffel Tower. Laying down in huge blankets around a campfire in the Sahara desert, staring at the stars, I talked with some friends about how lucky we all were. We were lucky to be able to call this world beautiful, and lucky enough to realize how insignificant so many trivial aspects of our lives were. Compared to the vast amount of stars we saw in the sky, our lives were so small. Being able to walk through Dachau concentration camp where thousands were murdered made gain a perspective on my own reality. I am so lucky and privileged to be where I am today. The experience I had at Dachau made me conceptualize the atrocities millions of people faced and inspired me to be active in helping to ensure nothing like Dachau would happen again.

 

I also learned how to communicate with people despite the fact that we did not speak the same language. Language barriers can be challenging, but trying to speak the native language of the country you’re in is always appreciated. I was barely comfortable speaking to my host parents in spanish, but they still loved trying to communicate with me. I was amazed to learn that many people speak english in the community I was living in. People shared their frustrations with americans’ lack of cultural knowledge to me. These eye-opening interactions inspired me to go out of my way to try to learn others cultures and languages. As a result of this shift in my mindset, I’m now teaching myself French in my free time!

 

Most importantly, I learned that I can do anything. Never in my life did I think that I would be where the Cheetah Girls once stood in Barcelona, or that I would see the beautiful landscape Julie Andrews once sang in. I went on many free tours to learn more about each city I was in and  learned about amazing, brave people. I saw the architecture that took years to build and realized it all started with a single person with a vision. I learned how amazing Europe, how Europe has shaped the world, and how it shaped me. I saw the culture of my ancestors and was able to relate it to what I was learning in the classroom. I learned that Europe will always be apart of me, both with my genetic makeup and my outlook on life. I was so beyond blessed to have the opportunity to find myself in Europe, and I hope many other people have the opportunity to do the same.