By Megan Garcia
LOGOS STAFF WRITER
When I entered college, I had no clue what was in store for me — including the idea of studying abroad.
I had always heard of “studying abroad.” The thought of it seemed pretty cool, but impossible for me.
I didn’t think it would be possible because of financial reasons, but most of all, how was I going to be away from all of my family and friends? How was I going to be away from home, and everything I was familiar with? How was I going to be away from Whataburger and WingStop? I always passed the opportunity, until one day the option for studying abroad presented itself in my grad class.
I’m a 22-year-old graduate student, and it soon dawned on me I was approaching my fourth year of college and time was escaping me faster than I have ever imagined.
I finally understood what people meant when they said, “life is too short.” So, I felt this was my time to have a journey in a whole new world as a young individual. I was ready to take on an adventure and I became open to the idea of change. And it has been the best decision I have ever made.
All of the challenges I endured to get to Heidelberg — from flying alone to Germany and having delays (and being the last person to arrive in Heidelberg), to figuring out how to get around in different airports — had been the best experience I could have ever dreamed of. Every single mishap I experienced was totally worth it.
I arrived at the University of the Incarnate Word’s European Study Center (ESC) in Heidelberg and fell head over heels in love. It didn’t take me long to realize I was extremely blessed to be in Germany, nor did it take me long to realize I would be happy there. The beauty of Heidelberg exceeded my expectations and hopes. Every single day I admired the aesthetics of Heidelberg.
I visited 10 countries in six weeks: Germany, Croatia, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, England, Spain, Morocco and Italy. Every single country was different from the United States and from one another.
Everything — from the people, to the food, to the entertainment, and to the overall culture — differed from one another. It was such a refreshing experience to witness firsthand the beautiful ways people lived, even if it was vastly different.
In some countries more than others, it took me time to adjust to people’s habits and ways of living. I would catch myself questioning their ways, but I realized I was in their territory and I should practice their ways, even if this meant trying to speak a little bit of their language or trying some of their traditional foods.
My best advice to someone who is considering studying abroad is to have an open mind. It’s inevitable that you’ll experience culture shock, uncertainty, homesickness, and more. Although there will be moments of shock and maybe even distress, you will endure. I can promise every single day you will learn something new.
If you ever decide to study abroad, have confidence in yourself and always trust your intuition. But, at the same time, don’t be afraid to try new things and take some risks. This is what the whole purpose is about!
Also, try to travel every single place you can go to. You will learn loads of things, and you will see the most beautiful things you never imagined would be right in front of you.
Lastly, never ever judge a book by its cover. Even though some place may seem uninteresting to you, or you are unsure about a restaurant to go to, just try it. You may be pleasantly surprised. Try your absolute best to get out of your comfort zone. At the end of the day, you will be so proud of yourself and you can say, “I did it.” This experience will be yours, and it will be one you will thank yourself every day for living.
Also, do some research on where you want to go such as the customs of the people, the food, etc. It will help you tremendously on your study-abroad journey. You will become a better problem-solver, listener, and most of all, a better person. I faced challenges and fears, but I overcame every single one of them.
For example, I was the last person to show up at the ESC in Heidelberg because of repeated flight delays. I faced different cultures I had no knowledge of and I got lost in some places where I had to find my way back. But I did it. I conquered all of these challenges, and now I can look back at all of these memories and laugh at them. I gained so much independence and confidence within myself because I had to.
Fellow UIW students: I highly and wholeheartedly encourage you to consider studying abroad. Not only will you get class credit that will apply to your curriculum, but you will have the time of your life doing it! You will experience new adventures, create close bonds with people, and will discover things about yourself you never knew existed.
Studying abroad will not be a regret of yours; it gives you a satisfaction that’s unexplainable and indescribable until you live it yourself. Take a chance, live life, and explore the world that is offered to you.
I can say from the bottom of my heart that this summer was the best summer of all my 22 summers, and that studying abroad was the best experience of my whole life. I have no regrets about anything. And if I could repeat everything all over again, I would.
E-mail Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org