I’m currently sitting in a cafe in Barcelona, Spain, and I felt the need to write about the life-changing effects of studying abroad. Granted—I haven’t really been back to my normal life yet. I will be back in Indiana in just under two weeks. I don’t know that there will be any major differences in how I go about "life as normal," but I do know that my summer abroad has given me new perspectives and ways of thinking that will impact me forever.
The first way that studying abroad has changed my life is that it has given me an unprecedented confidence in myself. I think that one of the ways that confidence is truly built is building trust in yourself. I have gotten myself to and from several foreign countries, which is no small feat for a young adult. At first, I was completely terrified. I did not have complete faith in myself, I did not know if everything would be okay. However, after quite a few travel dilemmas but even more successes, I have built so much trust with myself. I know deep in my soul that I am trustworthy. I will get myself to the airport to fly out on time (even if I barely make it…like in Croatia when I woke up two hours before my flight). I know that I can successfully navigate foreign airports (even if I do it with tears streaming down my face sometimes). I know that I have my wits about me and I can explore European cities without putting myself in danger. I know I am capable of making the right decisions for myself. I trust that I can book a trip for myself, something I’d literally never done before this summer. I trust that I can respectfully have discourse with people from completely other countries and cultures, and learn with an open mind. All of these specific things—specific tasks I’ve completed or situations I’ve navigated—they’ve all contributed to building up confidence in myself. Now, I take that confidence with me into my senior year of college. I’m fully confident now that I can network, apply for the jobs that I want, and go after whatever it is that I desire. The confidence in my capabilities and the self awareness I have gained from traveling around Europe and the UK all summer will undoubtedly make me a great candidate. I’ve gone from being terrified of the future to being excited about it. I’m excited for me. I’m excited for more opportunities.
Additionally, I have so much more respect for foreign cultures. I have actually had the incredible privilege of traveling Europe before: when I was little, my family and I lived in Europe for a summer because my mom was deployed by the U.S. Navy to Germany. I went to several countries and experienced new places, foods, and ways of living then. But I was also at the ripe age of 6 years old. Now as a 21 year old, I was actually able to absorb culture. Cultural competence is an excellent trait to have, and arguably a rarity with people my age. Just being able to be respectful and curious about people’s lives in different places of the world is huge. Being able to navigate through a new culture and exist within it is valuable. I’m sure I will be speaking about this with potential future employers whilst interviewing for new jobs.
This one is a little more frivolous I suppose, but studying abroad really has shown me the importance of saving money for experiences. At home I love to shop at Target, go out with my friends for drinks or dinner, and doesn’t everyone love Amazon??? I am fortunate enough to have my parents helping me pay for my summer abroad. However, I took plenty of money from my own savings in order to pay for my excursions to other countries. The prices of flights, airbnb’s and hostels really adds up. Then, you need to find a way to eat a few meals a day, and don’t even think about buying souvenirs. So sure, my Amazon package gave me a little hit of dopamine when it arrived, but those 20 bucks I spent could’ve gone toward a plane ticket or a pitcher of sangria. I’m a material girl through and through, but these experiences while studying abroad are PRICELESS. My mom warned me, and as much as I hate to say it, she was right—I should’ve spent my money less freely while I was home in Indiana and tried to save more for being abroad. I will probably have to work two jobs when I get back to make up for what I’ve lost, but that’s okay with me. I regret absolutely zero of the dollars I’ve spent (except perhaps some of the money I accidentally wasted… you live and you learn). The money will come back, but I'll never be 21 and have no responsibilities while traveling ever again after this summer. I will, however, try to be better about saving money from now on, as an attempt to provide myself with more travel opportunities and amazing experiences in the future.
Most of all, I now just feel like I’m okay on my own. I wasn’t sure if I would feel okay without family and friends closeby. I wasn’t sure I’d feel comfortable navigating a HUGE city in a foreign country and living there for several weeks. I didn’t know if I’d be totally responsible for myself. Sure I’ve had a taste of this freedom and independence being away at college and living on my own… but I was pretty close to home, and not doing anything that was especially outside of my comfort zone. I completely started from scratch when I showed up in London. I didn’t know a soul, had no idea how to get around, didn’t know how I was going to feed myself or keep myself safe… but I’ve done it!! I've made amazing new friendships that I’m certain will last a lifetime. I’ve successfully lived in one of the biggest cities in the world. I’ve gone beyond just being a tourist, which is what I’ve always been when traveling in the past. Sure 6 weeks isn’t a huge amount of time but it’s enough to really get settled and establish a routine for myself.
In conclusion: studying abroad is life changing!!!! Who would’ve thought??? It’s true, what they say. If you have the opportunity to do it, just go. Jump in, feet first, and figure it out as you go. Besides, nobody has anything completely figured out. EVER. Everybody makes mistakes and has dilemmas. You won’t ever see it on their Instagram, but I guarantee it's happened. If I can do it, so can you. Good luck!
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<p>Hey! My name is Bri Ferracciolo, and I'm a junior at Indiana University Bloomington studying Media (specifically Digital Production). I'm a lifestyle creator on youtube, instagram, and tiktok sharing my college experience and daily life. I love all things wellness & mental health, skincare, productivity, and of course travel. Outside of college & content, i'm obsessed with dogs and reality tv, plus I'm a foodie!</p>