How Studying Abroad Changed My Life

“Travel is little beds and cramped bathrooms. It’s old television sets and slow Internet connections. Travel is extraordinary conversations with ordinary people. It’s waiters, gas station attendants, and housekeepers becoming the most interesting people in the world. It’s churches that are compelling enough to enter. It’s McDonald’s being a luxury. It’s the realization that you may have been born in the wrong country. Travel is a smile that leads to a conversation in broken English. Travel is tipping 10% and being embraced for it. Travel is the same white T-shirt again tomorrow. Travel is flowing in the back of a bus with giggly strangers. It’s a street full of bearded backpackers looking down at maps. Travel is wishing for one more bite of whatever that just was. It’s the rediscovery of walking somewhere. It’s sharing a bottle of liquor on an overnight train with a new friend. Travel is “Maybe I don’t have to do it that way when I get back home.”

-Nick Miller, Isn’t It Pretty To Think So?

 

From the tiny hostels we slept in in Berlin to the lack of cell service and wifi that we learned to love, the second I read this quote a thousand memories started swirling through my head.  I thought of the the taxi drivers I met in Bali & the awe that St. Peter’s instilled in me even after the fifth time I visited. I thought of being so low on pounds that Mcdonald’s was a Friday night special & the conversation I had with my Egyptian cab driver across the Nile, him speaking only Arabic and me only English, but together understanding each other. I thought of the places I traveled to that I never imagined I would. I thought of sleeping under the Northern Lights in a glass igloo and hiking rice terraces on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I thought of the taste of tzatziki under the Acropolis and crepes across from the Eiffel tower, the feeling of seeing Monet’s water lily garden, the countless wrong turns we made in foreign cities, and the amazing places we found in turn. I thought of the cafés we stumbled into because we were soaking wet and the countless 188 bus rides home that were never just a simple journey home.

I thought of all the ways I have changed & realized that maybe it is okay to return home and not fit in anymore.

 

I learned things abroad that I never even realized were lessons to learn. I learned how to run for a plane, how to find a missing passport, how to find a missing friend, and most importantly how to find yourself. I learned that time and space mean nothing to the people who are most important to you, and that five friends can make the most incredible family. I learned that it is not always the destination, but the journey; the delayed flights, the lost visas, and the losing and finding of home that truly made our abroad experience what it was. I learned how to appreciate what I have more.

It’s hard to appreciate what life is in America when it’s been our only home, but people live differently across the globe and I’ve learned how truly important it is to not be blind to that. I learned how important it is to travel alone, to run into strangers, and to explore a reach of the world you never thought possible; to not be blind to what is new and to learn to love another culture that isn’t yours.

So thank you. Thank you to everyone and everything that made these experiences and dreams a reality. Thank you to the family that supported my dreams and passions and worked everyday on making them a reality. Thank you to the program that so seamlessly accepted us & the people we met along the way that welcomed us with open arms. Thank you to the city that crawled it’s way into our hearts and holds onto memories that we will remember forever. And most of all, thank you to the four friends that truly taught me that home is where the heart is.