Cultural Experience | United Kingdom

Lessons I Learned Studying Abroad

10 Weeks, 10 Lessons I learned Studying Abroad

Studying abroad is about more than what you learn in the classroom. In fact, I found that most of my lessons resulted from observing the culture around me and interacting with all of the amazing people I met and friends I made. Read on for 10 lessons I learned in my 10 weeks studying abroad.

1. “Home” is a fluid concept

I’ve always believed that home was more of a feeling that any one particular place. Home is anywhere you feel loved, accepted, and free to be the best version of yourself. If you have the courage to open yourself up to new environments, beliefs, and people, you can feel at home just about anywhere. 

2. America/Americans can learn a thing or two from the rest of the world

Whenever I travel, I’m always amazed at how much the rest of the world knows about America – our culture, values, politics, issues, etc. Studying abroad taught me how self-absorbed American’s can be. It was embarrassing to not be able to answer questions about who the British Prime Minister was or to have never heard of certain British artists. Studying abroad taught me just how important is to pay attention to and learn about the rest of the world – especially if I want to call myself a global citizen. 

3. Life goes on

Nothing is more humbling that realizing that the lives of those around you have gone on in your absence. Stepping out of my environment and realizing that school, family, work, and friends, will continue to live and prosper without me helped me both appreciate and process my role in the world around me. Knowing that life will go on in my absence makes me feel better about always being off on some adventure. So, buy the flight, hop in the car, or move across the world – don’t let the possibility of missing out on something at “home” keep you from whatever life experiences you want to have. Planes, trains, and cars make return journeys too, so you can always step back into the world you left behind if you want to. 

4. The world isn’t as bad as the media portrays it to be

If you watch the news or consume media then you’ll think the world is full of evil people whose sole mission in life is to commit some crime against you. Don’t get me wrong, those people do exist but, most of the people I’ve met during my travels have been kind, friendly souls. Humankind is incredibly generous and I believe bends more towards goodness than evil everyday. If you’re afraid to travel because you’re worried about the people you’ll meet or that something terrible will happen to you, let go of the fear and go anyway. Put some faith in your fellow human, they probably will surprise you.

5. Perspective is a beautiful thing

I’m not sure I fully appreciated my college experience until going abroad. Studying abroad enables you to look at the bigger picture because it removes you from the day-to-day routines of life. If you’re feeling fed up with your campus or if you just want to gain a better appreciation of your experience so far, study abroad and put your college experience into perspective -it’s a beautiful thing.

6. Friendship knows no bounds

I don’t know why but I thought I wasn’t going to make any friends studying abroad. I figured our experiences growing up and in college would be too different and we wouldn’t have anything to bond over. This couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Not only do I still talk to my friends from England often, but I have no doubt that if we ever meet again, we will be able to pick up where we left off without a problem. There is always more that unites us than separates us. It’s also really cool to have a global network and studying abroad is one of the best, most authentic ways to get one. 

7. Living abroad is something I want to do at some point in my life

I’ve always loved to travel and have toyed with the idea of living abroad in my head but studying abroad showed me that I could for sure life the expat life if I wanted to. Whether you’ve traveled a lot and know you want to move abroad or have never left the country, studying abroad will help you figure out if living outside of America at some point could ever be a possibility for you. More and more Americans are moving abroad and studying abroad is a great way to test if living or working abroad would be up your alley.

8. History is not only the past but actively shapes the present 

There’s just something so cool about wandering the streets of Europe and knowing you’re walking through a town/city that is thousands of years older than anything America can offer you. The mix of old and new, urban and cosmopolitan, vintage and modern is intoxicating – especially if you’re based in London, Paris, or Rome. Studying abroad helped me appreciate the worlds history, while also seeing its impact on the world I occupy today. 

9. “Nothing good ever came from comfort zones” 

Even though I had traveled internationally prior to studying abroad, I was nervous to spend such a long time away from my family, friends, and comfort zone. Studying abroad forces you into a new environment that proves the saying “Nothing good ever came from comfort zones” true. Outside of maybe your freshman year of college, there’s never really another chance to reinvent yourself, step outside of the box, and just explore yourself and the world around you. Studying abroad will challenge you. I promise it’s worth it. 

10. Traveling is my first love 

Prior to studying abroad, the longest I had traveled and spent time anywhere was 1 month. Studying abroad gave me the chance to see if I would love the nomad lifestyle for longer than 4 weeks. I did and am itching to plan another trip and hop on a plane to some new or previously visited destination. My 10 week semester abroad was a great test of my love for travel. I passed. Hopefully, you will too.

10 Weeks, 10 Lessons I Learned Studying Abroad

Gabrielle Hickmon

Cornell University | 7 stories

Gabrielle Hickmon is a senior at Cornell University who just returned from studying abroad at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @gabgotti. She rants and writes regularly on her blog The Reign XY. But, when she isn't, you can find her laughing with her friends, binge watching way too much Netflix, and planning her next adventure!

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