I will start by saying that I am genuinely one of the biggest advocates of studying abroad and leaving your comfort zone. I have spent a year living in Belgium through Rotary Youth Exchange, spent two months working on farms in Alaska and Hawaii, conducted research in Puerto Rico, drove my car across the good ol' USA for a month, connected with my family in Egypt, and now studied abroad in South America. My time abroad has taught me too many things to put into words such as a high level of independence and trip planning skills, new language skills, and the confidence to speak without inhibitions, and that I have so much of myself to share with others and want others to share themselves with me. I love learning about new cultures and people, pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and experiencing a quick and intense level of growth. That being said, studying abroad is not always as easy as it may seem to be. It is romanticized, for good reason, but there are also challenges that will come alongside the journey!
My study abroad in South America tested me in ways that my one in high school study abroad in Belgium did not. In Belgium, there were so many exchange students, I believe close to 500, in a country smaller than the size of Maryland. That being said, it was very very easy to make friends and find people that I could relate to since there were genuinely so many options and it was so easy to meet up with my friends in the city. My program through IES Abroad was only with 6 other people besides me, so at times it felt isolated and lonely as I am used to being super extroverted and having many friends. Also, in Belgium, everyone thought long and hard before committing to the program mainly since it was one year long vs a semester. On my IES Abroad, there were a few people who just went because of their major, which there is nothing wrong with, but I didn't feel they had as strong a desire as I did to really immerse myself abroad. This study abroad challenged me as I was applying for graduate school and internships. I was still coping with the death of my father one year ago, and I was abroad during my senior semester as I watched all my friends back at home enjoy this senior year without me. Overall, I have no regrets and I would choose to go again every time if I had the option, but I just wanted to let everyone know that it is not always sunshine and roses and that studying abroad will bring a unique set of challenges to face. But when you do face these challenges, you will grow immensely and become a stronger person because you appreciate your home country and your country abroad even more. Thank you IES Abroad for the memories and thank you to my program for the memories as well.
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Hello! My name is Amanda & I am a senior at Penn State University, studying Labor and Human Resources, Global and International Studies, and Spanish. I love traveling, spending time outside, reading, cooking, and spending time with my friends!