Many people when anticipating their first, or even their fifteenth, voyage abroad think that this will finally be their one opportunity to recreate themselves and “start over” without the barriers that currently hold them back from truly being themselves. I was one of those people. Before leaving for my first study abroad adventure to Australia, I knew very little about the country or the people, but I did know that I was going to be different there. It would be a place that would allow me the freedom to be who I had always wanted to be but never quite had the courage to be. While I think that traveling abroad in many ways does allow you that freedom to be a little more daring than you would otherwise be, it is difficult to fully recreate yourself. However, it is the perfect opportunity to expand your mind, experiences and build on the person that you have been all of your life.
In Australia, I began to run and train for a half marathon, a feat I never expected (nor desired) to accomplish. This goal helped to push me, someone who had always been active, but never with such a lofty aim, to see how far my body could go. Also, I focused on my photography passion and expanded my artistic horizons with the new ideas and landscapes that I encountered. When I returned to the States, I realized that I had not become a new person, but I had unleashed more of the person who I had always been on the verge of becoming.
Many people ask me before leaving to go abroad how they will make friends and meet people there in a place which is out of their comfortable school environment. I tell them to get involved just as they would in any other new place. If you have always wanted to play rugby or do volunteer work with animals or just take more time to read, this is the time, this is the place. Being abroad doesn’t mean that you have to be a different person, but it can often release you from some of your own fears to expand upon the person that you already are.
Embrace the opportunities that you have available to you while you are abroad. If you live near some of the greatest surfing beaches in the world, maybe this will inspire you to take up surfing and make some friends on the beach who can show you the ropes…or the waves. If you are in Europe and have always enjoyed history, maybe this is the time to get to know the city you live in and volunteer to give tours to visitors and show off your new home. Wherever you are, enjoy the freedom of being in a new country and get involved in anything that might peak your interest. You never know who else you might meet doing the same thing.
Posted by Susannah