The Collegian
Friday, August 14, 2020

Studying abroad as a state of mind

With the study-abroad decision date just around the corner, many second-year students are anxiously waiting to hear which country they will live in, study and explore for at least four months of their lives.

To me, studying abroad was living, but in much more than the conventional sense. Yes, I lived in an apartment, cooked my own food, managed my own finances and figured out the whole public transport thing. But, I also learned to live in a whole other way.

Living became a joyride, a journey without a pre-planned destination. I woke up when my eyes were no longer tired. I ate and drank to please my senses in a way that rendered my impulses, fears and insecurities null. I found comfort in the presence of people who barely spoke my language.

Who would have thought that studying abroad would enable me to meet people who would change my life, and inevitably my concepts of living, forever? Certainly not me.

I think there are two major questions one needs to ask him or herself before studying abroad. Who am I? And, who do I want to be? Not knowing the answer to either is scary as hell. I know, because that's how I felt.

Who was I really? Thinking about it now, I have no idea who I was then. It wasn't until I was driving with three good friends (two French, one German), going 150 kmh through the mountains of Austria, when I realized who I wanted to be.

I wanted to be free, free in the sense that I wanted to take control of my life and all of the decisions that come with it - decisions ranging from little things, such as the food I put into my body, to big things, such as the people I truly love and trust.

Being abroad doesn't just open the doors of freedom and introspection for students. Being abroad offers us the chance to dive, head first, out of those doors. The fall is the fun, and the jump is the rush.

That said, I do not think that everyone embraces this opportunity. Not the opportunity to study abroad (because sometimes studying abroad isn't for everyone), but rather the opportunities that allow us to realize who we are outside of Greek life, outside of the University of Richmond and outside of our comfort zones in general.

It certainly doesn't take going abroad to discover who you are. That was just my own personal revelation. Who knows, maybe people in general know themselves a lot better than I give them credit for. But I truly think that encountering something completely different with people you've only just met can change your life.

So to all of you who are waiting to hear where you will be studying abroad next school year, I say this: No matter where you go and no matter whom you meet, free your mind of preconceptions, open your heart and reap the inevitable rewards.

Contact staff writer Liz Monahan at liz.monahan@richmond.edu

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