Study Abroad: The Big Picture

By: Zach

Hello once again from across the ‘Big Blue’! As I wrap up my semester in abroad, I have had the opportunity to look back at the months during which I called London home, and truly reflect on the experience I have had over seas. Throughout this semester, I have been a Peer on a mission. Searching for and uncovering interesting UK career related topics, however, in this post, I want to share some of the things that I have been able to appreciate and learn from my time abroad. Through my time in the UK, I believe I have developed a greater sense of self-confidence and independence, as well as greater appreciation and understanding of culture and people. While my journey was not always easy, I have learned some interesting things along the way. I hope these brief learning points interest you to think about studying abroad some day, because the truth is, words will never do it justice.

SA The Big Picture

Travel

One of the more obvious benefits to studying abroad is the opportunity to travel. A major reason why I chose London as my home away-from-home is because it is a prominent international city within Europe. London provides you with many convenient forms of transportation that link throughout Europe. However, not only have my international travels been memorable, but having Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, the Olympic Stadium, the Houses of Parliament, and many more historical venues all just a ‘Tube’ ride away, has been an experience unlike any other. London, just like many popular study abroad destinations, is filled with amazing history, culture, and adventure. It is true that while being in arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I have definitely had to remind myself that study comes first in study abroad.  If I could give any advice to prospective study abroad students, my advice would be to take the leap! There will always be excuses not to travel, but I urge you not to let these hold you back. It is no doubt that Duluth will always be my home, but my thought was that I will have all the time in the world to live at home so why not add some adventure to my agenda!

Zach & City backdrop

Friends and Culture

Let’s be real! Another major reason why I chose to study abroad was because I wanted to meet new people and make friends! I have been able to meet London locals, and because this city is an international hub, I have been able to rub shoulders with people from across the globe. One of my favorite aspects to my time abroad has been the captivating conversations I have been able to have with others. Whether it be about major cultural differences or just funny corky language and accent differences, I have learned a great deal from the people I have met. Not only have I met international students, but some of the good friends I have been making while in London have been other study abroad students from the US. Even though studying abroad is an experience that allows you to be independent and self-reliant, it is always nice to know that there is a number of other American college students who are in the ‘same boat’ as yourself. For me, this network of support, understanding, and relation has proven to be crucial in my success abroad, and I know many of us will keep in touch long after we head back home. While studies come first, it will definitely be the relationships I made, the friends I had, and the experiences we shared that I will remember from my time abroad.

Zach

Learning and Growth

Being immersed in an entirely new setting is overwhelming at first, but truly that is the excitement of it all. It is an opportunity to discover new strengths and abilities, conquer new challenges, and solve problems. Wherever one decides to travel, the challenges will be different. For some, language and cultural differences may be a bit harder to understand, and for others, the university lifestyle and atmosphere may not be what they had expected. However, this is truly where the learning and growth happens. Indeed students may choose to study abroad for academic purposes, but I guarantee that the majority of learning takes place within one’s self. By immersing yourself in a new society, with new people, and new customs, you learn to adapt, embrace, and truly enjoy yourself. It is exciting! The encounter with other cultures enables you to see your own culture through a new lens. While studying in London, I have developed a stronger sense independence and self-confidence that I will carry with me for life. After my time abroad, I am a strong believer in the notion that the most beneficial learning one can accomplish happens outside of the classroom through real world experience and application.

With time winding down, I have been trying to take advantage of every day during which I get to call London, home. I would be lying to say that my adventures abroad have been easy and stress free. There have been many challenges and obstacles that have been thrown my way. Yet, I would not change one thing. The experiences I have had, and the people that I got to share them with made this time one of the most memorable in my life to date. It is crazy to think of how much I have learned in such a short period of time. It is very hard for me to put my experience into words, however, the best way I can explain the study abroad journey is that it is like a roller coaster. The wait in line will make you feel anxious and nervous, but once strapped down, you are in it for the whole ride. You will of course have your ups and downs, your highs and lows, but ultimately, it is definitely one of the most exciting rides you will have at the ‘Amusement Park of Life’.

Read other posts by Zach

All photos are Zach’s

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