How was your study abroad experience? What were your favorite things about your experience abroad? – These are questions people may ask on my return home. And yes I could give a simple answer like “Oh well some of my favorite things about the experience have been making great friendships, experiencing new foods and exploring new places.” But in reality, I believe one cannot really define the Study Abroad experience into separate parts. It is a single experience in itself, complete with challenges and hard-work as well joyful and inspirational moments. I am grateful for the challenges I’ve met here in Germany such as all the bureaucratic registration work I had to upon my arrival or when I explored the city alone as a foreigner. These challenges seem scary at first but after facing them head on and overcoming them, one has the chance to grow a person.
What makes the study abroad experience particularly unique is that it takes you outside your comfort zone. I think it’s natural for people to do whatever they can to remain inside their comfort zone. People are very resistant to change and have anxiety about leaving behind what they know. This experience gave me the chance to challenge my natural desire to stay in the familiar. And after acclimating here in Germany, I truly feel like a stronger and more adventurous person.
Not only did Study Abroad challenge my sense of comfort but also my self-perception and perception of the world. I thought I knew quite a lot before coming here and even considered myself a very aware person. And that might have been true within my small bubble of a world I was living in before. But being here and Europe shed new light upon my world. Suddenly it wasn’t just me in my small world surrounding the city of Philadelphia and my network of friends, family and colleagues. I have a new awareness of the people of the world, an awareness that can’t be substituted by a deep knowledge of facts or online article readings. This awareness is deeply rooted in real life experiences and conversations.
In the end, study abroad has been a defining moment in itself, challenging me with new experiences and giving me a chance to leave behind my comfort zone and really experience life in new ways.