This post contains sensitive subject matter, including eating disorders, trauma, and PTSD. Readers be advised.
Victoria studied finance and German at Chico State. After spending her junior year in Germany, she fell in love with international education. Now, she is pursuing a Master of Higher Education Organization and Leadership with a focus on study abroad accessibility at the University of San Francisco. She is happy to represent USAC as the University Relations Coordinator for the West Coast.
There is something powerful about moving to a new country. Getting out of your comfort zone and away from the realities you have always known makes you inquisitive. You may start to challenge those realities and pursue new passions. When embraced, the experience can help you meet your true self.
Your study abroad advisors are wise and have your best interest in mind. Listen to them. Trust them.
Before going abroad, I lived a life dictated by trauma. I thought money would make me happy and losing weight would make me beautiful, so I studied accounting and lived with an eating disorder. I was always perceived as hardworking, optimistic, and bubbly, so no one really worried.
I still don’t know how, but my study abroad advisor knew what I needed. He convinced me to spend a year in Germany and I am forever grateful for him. I know now that I was attempting to run from my unsustainable lifestyle, but it was the best decision I could have made.
Immerse yourself in the culture and welcome change. You could meet the best version of yourself.
Reflecting on my year in Germany floods me with every emotion imaginable. My first six weeks were spent living with a host family in a small village in the Black Forest. I had only taken German 101 so you would think communication was impossible, but we made it easy. My host family spoiled me with phenomenal home-cooked meals: fresh bread with locally sourced butter, dozens of sausages, potatoes in a multitude of forms, and hand-cut egg noodles. I learned to equate food with love.
Most days, I would take a bus into town for German lessons, have a beer under the local bridge with classmates, go home to my host family for a large meal, then go on a walk or jog through the Black Forest. The simplicity and beauty of life at this time helped me overcome my superficial obsessions. I felt safe and supported to explore who I really am. My six weeks in Bittlebronn did wonders for my soul and gave me the strength to overcome my ED.
The world is smaller than we realize. We need to spend our time loving and learning from each other.
After those six weeks, I moved into a dorm that was also being used as housing for Syrian refugees seeking asylum. I was asked by people in the U.S. if I was scared, or what I was doing to stay safe. I went from thinking these were practical questions to being deeply offended by them. Did they think I should be scared of the three young boys playing soccer outside of our building? Or my classmate who lost her family before coming to Germany?
These experiences changed my worldview in a snap. I was able learn about my privilege and begin overcoming biases. Getting to know people of different cultures sparked a passion for cross cultural communications that changed my life. I believe higher education is not complete without pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and spending time learning from a new culture.
Growth is not always easy, but it is worth it.
Returning to the U.S., I knew I had to pursue a career in study abroad to help students access similar opportunities for growth. I also knew I would need to continue educating myself and growing to help my students.
Since graduating in 2017, I have lived in England, Spain, and Thailand. Each time I went abroad I came back stronger. My time abroad has empowered me to come out as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, seek mental health support, heal, instead of running from, my PTSD diagnosis, and open myself up to the vulnerability that being in love brings.
I recently landed my dream role here at USAC and am furthering my education in graduate school. I am healthy, strong, and living a life I did not realize was possible before studying abroad. The only thing that could make me happier is helping you find your perfect study abroad program.