My Experience (So Far) Studying Abroad As A Freshman
Yes, I get it, you think I’m slightly crazy, but I can proudly say that so far studying abroad has been the best experience I’ve had and have had ~no regrets~ since I’ve left the United States. Now, let me explain my reasoning and insistence on coming across the pond so early into my college career.
We all have a “perfect plan” in our heads of how things will go, whether it be academically, professionally, in a relationship, etc. For me, I had set up the quintessential plan of how my college career was going to go: make friends, join a sorority, live it up, study what I love, and my junior year embark on a study abroad trip that would change my life. Well, I may have mixed up that order a little bit? When I moved to Kentucky from Michigan to start my first semester, I knew my sister, high school best friend, and that was the extent of that. I’m generally a pretty outgoing girl and never in a million years would I have thought of adjusting to a new school, state, and population of people would have affected me the way it did. Don’t get me wrong I have met a good amount of people and made memories my first semester that I will cherish for as long as I can, but most of my first semester was spent in my dorm room sleeping or thinking about how lonely I really felt. I can’t complain too much, I did a lot of fun things with my sorority and friends that I made, but why wasn’t that enough for me to feel like I was supposed to be there? I overanalyzed this so much, and it ended up just multiplying my emotions towards being there. The first month I was convinced into transferring schools because I wouldn’t let myself adjust to UK. So what did I do? Three weeks into school I was in the study abroad office convincing them to let me study abroad as a freshman. I didn’t even look into other programs than the one that I saw on the bulletin: London. And well, here I am, typing this in a coffee shop in the middle of this jaw-dropping city, 4,000 miles from home. Now that I look back on the reason that I studied abroad so early on, I laugh. I laugh because if you would’ve asked me to study abroad by Thanksgiving break I would’ve said: “not yet!”. By Thanksgiving break, I was having the “time of my life” at UK. Strange right? The exact reason that convinced me of studying abroad was the exact reason I would’ve canceled my trip with just a few months difference.
I convinced myself to overlook the reasons I was wanting to stay at UK for my spring semester, and here I am. In London. Coming here, I was so excited to experience all that this city has to offer, but I was terrified. Terrified that I would have to adjust all over again, that this lonely feeling and anxiety would weigh me down and that I’d have no way out being so far away from home. Instead of focusing on this, I was (and still am) determined to make this trip really mean something. I can easily and so happily say I have not experienced any anxiety since being here, thanks to the thrilling emotions that come with being somewhere you used to dream about and the incredible friends I’ve made here already.
I was so embarrassed by why I actually was so determined to study abroad so early and becoming transparent with my feelings has helped me enjoy my time so much more. I was embarrassed that I wasn't living into what my social media portrayed that I was that first semester, that I wasn't "thriving" as many of my home friends would've labeled it as. Now, I would say I'm ~thriving~ and being open about this has added onto the effect London has had on me thus far. I hope in sharing this vulnerable story with you guys you take away these main points:
1. Allowing yourself to adjust somewhere is crucial to your happiness, focusing only on what is draining you will only make the situation worst. I’m not saying that if you actually cannot stand your current situation to stay static in it, but find ways to make it better or change something about it, leaving the situation fully is not always the best option. For example, instead of transferring immediately from UK, I found an alternative that would give me more time to think about it, and now I cannot wait for next semester at UK.
2. Find a way to do what you dream of doing. As I said, I’ve always dreamed of studying abroad. I had to prove myself able to study abroad so early on to the study abroad office. In return, they were super helpful in getting me to where I am, despite my lack of courses, etc.
3. GO OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE!! This clearly was not in my plans for my freshman year of college, but as I said, it has been collectively one of the best decisions I’ve made. Right before I left UK, I read this quote on my friend's whiteboard “On the other side of fear, is everything you’ve ever dreamed of." I can attest to this, the fear that ate at me of leaving my new friends and life that I became so used to. I have had a tiny bit of fomo since being here, but then I go walk around Oxford Street and am restored. Now, going out of your comfort zone doesn’t have to be fleeing to a different country, it could be something like eating lunch with someone random in your class, or not going home one weekend and staying on campus. Little things count just as much as the big ones!
Now that I have been in London for over a month, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else, I am so happy I listened to my intuition and brought myself all the way here. I’m so excited to continue sharing my journey and struggles with you guys as I’m here.