Studying abroad is not what some people might think. It’s not a vacation (even though with proper planning you’ll have time to travel), it’s not a time for goofing off (but there are plenty of fun times to be had), and it’s certainly nothing like “Eat, Pray, Love” (you most likely won’t have your life changed by a Balinese medicine man). USAC was able to provide me with all of the materials to grow educationally as well as as an active, empowered member of society. The truest testament possible to the best experience of my adult life is by sharing what I learned; and if you’re open for it, what you will learn in your time abroad.
You Will Learn That Your Life Is Not About Just You
Living with grace and thought for others is something most college students do not have at the top of their to-do list. Before studying abroad, I certainly assumed that the best way to get what I wanted was (with minimal effort on my part) to expect things I wanted to fall into my lap. Studying abroad showed me that everyone has their own lives, limited time, and certainly will not make you their top priority when you aren’t in your “hell-bent for glory” state of mind. And who knows, maybe if you make a habit of helping other people, they will make a habit of helping you.
You Will Have A Greater Appreciation For Your Family and Friends
Homesickness is no joke. It can be really easy to miss your family and friends while you are abroad. There is something about being outside of somewhere familiar that can hurt, and can make you feel like you want to go back home. On the other side of the same coin, you will learn how to appreciate these people more than anything. Your friends and family will shine like beacons of love to you in a way that you had never seen before.
You Will See The Bad and Good Parts Of Yourself
When you are in an environment that is so unfamiliar to you, your identity can feel like it’s going through some sort of shift. You no longer identify yourself with your city, your habits, your social group, or even your culture- all of that has now shifted. This process is really what allows so many students studying abroad to truly see themselves for the first time. You will see the parts of yourself that do not help you and become conscious that there are quite a few things you do that maybe aren’t in your best interest. However, you will become even more aware of your true self; along with the resilience and strength you have inside of you. And that is no small feat.
You Will Learn How To Fail
Shifting seeing failure as a negative obstacle that should be avoided at all costs to a necessary part of being put back on the right track is a crucial moment in every persons life. The only problem is, a lot of people never have that moment. While living abroad, you will fail. Let me say that again, but this time you can take some deep breaths and really just try to be okay with what I’m saying: living abroad, you WILL fail. You will miss the bus before your first day because you don’t know how to get to school, you will do something that at home is fine but abroad is totally not fine, you will not know how to flush the strange foreign toilets and get a negative Airbnb review. And, you will survive. And learn that failure is not actually failure, giving up and feeling like you can’t do what you want is failure.
You Will Become Your Own Biggest Supporter
Every single student with me abroad mentioned near the end of their experience that they felt a robust sense of authenticity and empowerment. As learning about the good and bad inside yourself and overcoming failure accumulate, you soon become someone who is an active advocate for themselves in their own lives. In order to keep in mind all of the things you’ve learned while abroad, you have to support yourself. And part of supporting yourself is doing the scary thing that’s out of your comfort zone, like, studying abroad in the first place.
Study abroad is not what some people might think, it is so much more. And if you’re able to open your mind and heart to the benefits of study abroad, you won’t regret it.
Candace Wade is a USAC Valencia alumna from the University of Cincinnati.