I can’t write this post without starting to feel emotional. When I arrived in Prague four months ago, I sometimes wondered how long the semester would feel, being so far away from home. But I blinked, and now it’s gone. I can’t believe the time has come to say good-bye.
My friend Vivian — shout out if you’re reading this right now Viv — was the one who told me about this Travel Studies course, the one that she took last semester, while abroad in Prague. She sent me the link to her very own farewell post, and I remember reading it on my laptop in bed my first night in Prague. Sitting in a completely unfamiliar country, with students I had never met before, thousands of miles away from home, I thought four months would take a long time to pass.
But now here we are. Was my study abroad experience completely different than my expectations? Yes. But was it the most incredible, challenging, adventurous, and happy moments of my entire life? Undoubtedly. I didn’t believe the cliche that all my friends told me, but now I can clearly see how it’s true — being abroad changes you. My perspective on the world, how I relate to others, and most importantly, even my sense of self has significantly changed. Traveling to dozens of countries, ending up in situations beyond my wildest imagination, meeting people from all across the world, and getting into trouble with my best friends by my side, has completely opened up my eyes to what the world has to offer.
Growing up in California and moving all the way across the country to New York City already seemed like enough change to me. I was enamored by all that the city had to offer, thinking that I didn’t have to live anywhere else — this much excitement was enough. But coming abroad, I have realized that the United States is just one area of the world, and in order to have a truly broad perspective, there is so much else I have to experience. I’ve driven an ATV up the streets of Santorini, danced in a club in Berlin until 11 a.m. (after which we went straight to get brunch), spent a weekend in Positano, Italy, only getting around by hitchhiking, made friends with a group of ten men from Kuwait vacationing in Amsterdam, and been chased in a car in Paris for stealing a 4 a.m. Uber from some large French men. These experiences could never have been possible unless I came here.
I am no longer afraid of trying anything new or putting myself in an unfamiliar situation, because nothing will compare to what I have experienced abroad. I’ve become more independent, and in a sense, also become more tough. Traveling as a group of girls — especially when I’ve travelled alone — can be dangerous if you’re not careful. I always keep myself alert and my eyes open. Additionally, I’ve always been an outgoing person, but being abroad has opened me up even more. My most cherished memories involve times when I’ve just randomly starting chatting with someone at a restaurant, pub, or airport, and it’s turned into a conversation or a night that would otherwise have been impossible.
I am so thankful for this course, because if nothing else, it forced me to document my thoughts every week and really think deeply about my experience. It’s easy to forget to write in a diary every day, but this made me accountable for my writing. It’s nice to think I can go back and read all of my pieces from the semester, and see how I’ve developed and changed.
It’s been a pleasure reading everyone’s posts this semester. I’ve loved hearing about everyone’s personal thoughts and reflections, especially seeing how they relate to my own. I hope you all loved your study abroad experiences as much as I did. Feel free to keep in touch, have a great summer everyone!