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Wellness > Mental Health

How My Study Abroad Story Changed My Back-To-School Perspective

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

This title probably made you roll your eyes. You probably thought, “Oh look, another study abroad student who now won’t shut up about how ‘she’s changed.’” But I want to promise you that after spending seven weeks in Maastricht, The Netherlands, I don’t go around talking in a fake Dutch accent, with Dutch words “accidentally” slipping out of my mouth, or pretend to get culture shock from mundane things. However, yes, I did study abroad, and yes, it really was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I won’t go all the way and say it changed me completely, but it did help me grow as a person as I enter my final year at UCLA. 

Rewind to May: I was burnt out, depressed, anxious all the time and dealing with the grief of losing my childhood pet. The idea of going to another country by myself, knowing absolutely no one and adjusting to a new education system, was extremely daunting. I feared being isolated and feeling even more anxious and depressed. I was really close to backing out. But I’m so, so glad that I didn’t because those seven weeks were some of the best times of my life, and I felt truly happy for the first time in a long time. 

I did things I never pictured myself doing, from putting myself out there and easily making friends to planning weekend trips all by myself (this was my first time traveling without parents or adults organizing everything for me). Now, don’t get me wrong, there were some rough moments like almost being stranded in the German countryside to handling some clique drama. But, I was able to handle each hurdle and not let it heavily impact my experience. 

How did I do this? One of my closest friends I actually made calls it “The summer camp effect.” If you are unfamiliar with this term, it basically means taking a bunch of people who do not know each other, have no attachments from their regular lives present and putting them all in a close setting. Naturally, one feels less social pressure and their true personality is more likely to show. This happened to me, and I rediscovered layers about myself I had long ago buried. For example, last year, I struggled to put myself in new situations and gave most people in my life the impression that I was an introvert. In Maastricht, all my friends were surprised to hear this and thought I was more of an extrovert since I often made the first move in our friendships and initiated plans. I always try to have the mindset of “in a sink or swim situation, swim,” and this summer really put me to the test with classes I never thought I would take, cities I was unfamiliar with and a total of six different types of public transportation systems. I swam each time and found a new confidence within myself. 

It makes me laugh thinking about how nervous I was at the beginning of my journey. Coming back to the U.S. was really hard as I felt the pressure of my “regular life” resuming. However, I realized that I could take the qualities I learned about myself over the summer and apply them to the school year. I could go to more socials, I could plan day trips and set up dates with my friends here; I could still be the person I discovered over the summer. Coming into this new skin and handling new situations has been awkward, but I’ve learned that pushing through the discomfort is so rewarding. My advice to everyone this school year is to treat every day like summer camp, like you have no strings attached and can be who you want to be. You just might surprise yourself as your fears become smaller and you start embracing a life you have always wanted to live.

BriannaRose is a UCLA Communications major and Film/TV minor who aspires to break boundaries and stigmas. As an aspiring creative director and editorial writer, she works on student films and photography projects, and has professional experience in entertainment and fashion journalism, fashion public relations and internal communications for cable. In addition to writing, BriannaRose volunteers at local animal shelters, competes in pageants, and is always excited to read a contemporary romance novel.