by Lizzy Selvik, University of Limerick International Student Ambassador
When I embarked on my study abroad journey I could not have been more excited. I had been dreaming about this experience and planning it for ages. I was going to see the world and welcome a semester of new experiences and new places. Before I left for my semester abroad I was also nervous – not for the fact that I was saying goodbye to my school, my family and friends, and everything else familiar for a whole semester – those things I expected. I was excited and completely ready.
I was nervous because of this whole preconceived idea that “studying abroad will change your life.” It sounds trivial, but what if it didn’t change my life? I knew that living and learning in a new country for half a year would be wonderfully eventful and exciting, but as I sat on the eight hour plane ride across the globe, all I could think about was the pressure to come back a changed person. Taking off on a journey that you’re told is going to change your life is a strange feeling.
Looking back, I know now that this was an unnecessary fear to have. I’m not going to say that studying abroad “changed my life” because in my opinion, your life can and will change every day but. I can say that I have learned so much and experienced so many new things that I have developed a changed outlook on everyday life. I’m not going to delve into the emotional transformations of studying abroad but here are the top five things I’ve learned that I owe to being an international student:
- Independence: Studying and living in a completely new environment teaches you how to figure out things on your own. I’ve learned how to be more adaptable, how to figure out a metro system in any foreign country, and how to adjust to different customs whether it is working on a group project with students from four different countries or navigating your way around a brand new city.
- Travel and explore – no matter where you are: Living in Europe has opened me up to the world and all of the beautiful places to see in it, and I intend to take that mindset home with me. I realized that even when I go home, there are so many places right around me that I have never made the effort to discover. The world offers so much to do and see and that applies whether you are in Europe or the hometown you’ve lived in for your entire life.
- It’s okay to not know what you want to do with the rest of your life: I’ve learned that it is a big world out there, and there is no reason to be in a rush to find the perfect career. Working as hard as you can and living in a way that makes you passionate is what counts.
- Resourcefulness: This semester I have learned much about making do with less – both because I was only able to bring one large suitcase abroad and because I have to save money for cool trips! I have also learned how to cook without a microwave and how to operate an immersion – studying abroad teaches you important life skills!
- The people in your life will be always most important: What has made this semester abroad the greatest time of my life? Not the beautiful sights or cool places, but the people you meet and befriend. I’ve learned that the most unexpected people can add so much to your life, and the friends I have made from all over the world have truly made my experience the best and created the memories I will remember 40 years from now. As a side perk, who else besides a study abroad student has a free place to stay in countless different locations around the world?
Lizzy Selvik is an Internationa Student Ambassador at the University of Limerick