A post-reflection on my time abroad

Studying abroad was something I always considered doing, but ended up becoming a necessity. I was at a place in my life where the world had become too small and my days felt like they were full of old habits and just getting through the motions.

As much as I prepared, packed, and studied the country of Italy and Greece, I don’t think anything could have taken away the nerves. I did not know anyone else going, did not speak Italian or Greek, and I was pretty sure it was the first thing I had ever done on my own. I sobbed on my flight to JFK, like I’m sure I made the whole plane super uncomfortable. The scariest part of it all was that I knew it wasn’t something that I could just give up halfway through and retreat back to my comfort zone. There was no way to predict what would happen after I got off my flight or what would happen in 6 weeks.

It’s hard to explain how you change through study abroad, but you definitely do. I’m not sure if it’s the freedom of exploring a whole new culture or how adaptable you become when problems arise or how you start recognizing people from your neighborhood and feeling like your part of something completely separate of your life back home.

My favorite thing that I can take away from study abroad is how much I learned about other people. I learned A LOT living with 7 other American girls in a small apartment in Trastevere. I learned about how to get along with your travel partners as you run around Europe on the weekends. I bonded with an old lady in Italian village who spoke no English with only hand gestures and a lot of smiling. Being a tourist is easy, but being a study abroad student requires you to make deep connections with people. Those human connections are what made my travels complete!

So, if I had to give someone any one tip, it would be to jump into your travels with both feet! Meet people, explore places, and run far away from your comfort zone. This can be an experiment to see how much you grow. Make a country 1000 miles away your 2nd home. It’s hard to not let fear take over in an unpredictable situation, but look at the unpredictability as potential!


Elshadai Smith-Mensah

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