Why I wanted to study abroad

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Katlyn Clarke
August 17, 2023

I'm leaving for Amsterdam in three days, and I still don't believe it's really going to happen. I know I'm not returning to campus at F&M, or staying with my family, but at the same time I haven't been able to wrap my brain around studying in a totally new country with new people for four months. Some of my friends and I were chatting the other week, when I asked about the last time we'd done anything new.  For me and my friend, it was our freshmen year of college. Sure, maybe we've done little things here and there, but really, the last time our lives really took a turn was about three years ago. 

I knew I wanted to study abroad because I like change: experiencing new things and learning how to navigate full of unknowns. I wanted to give myself the chance to explore and figure out how to function with and adapt to a whole range of situations I may not be able to anticipate. On campus, life is structured with a class schedule and planned weekend activities. We go downtown to try new restaurants or a new place to thrift, but it's comfortable, predictable. On the weekends I don't take day trips to other universities or go to other states. I solely exist in Lancaster. In Amsterdam, I was told I could buy a plane ticket to London for less than 100 euros, go to Belgium and Germany in under three hours and could take a weekend trip Paris. Saying I'm going to be living the dream is an understatement. I have quite literally dreamt of doing these things.

Hailing from a tiny, rural town in the dead middle of Pennsylvania, I didn’t realize how big the world could feel until I went to college—only 2 hours away! I felt like there had to be more of the world out there for me. I’ve always craved diverse perspectives, the ability to connect with people who may not identify the same way I do.  College felt huge to me: full of possibilities, people to meet, things to do. It's a place where I found people who cultivate the same culture and community I’d like to be a part of. 

Traveling is always something I’ve wanted to do, and I decided this may be my only chance to really get out there and do it. You never know what the future holds, and I don’t know where the next few years of my life could take me. That’s exactly why I wanted to take this opportunity while I could still grab it.  I’ve never traveled without my family, and have extremely limited exposure to other countries. My memory is a little blurry, especially when thinking about the last time I've been in an airport. So, what better time than in your ripe and early 20s to dive straight into something new? If there’s anything I have from college, it’s the resilience and courage to chase after what I want. 

I’m excited to meet an entire group of new people from varying backgrounds and colleges across the U.S., and also native Dutch students in my program. I also weirdly want to just miss a train or two, get caught in a torrential downpour, and try to communicate in Dutch. I want things to get messy. I want to learn how to figure things out on my own instead of putting so much pressure on myself to get it right the first time. All study abroad programs are different, but exposing yourself to big change is the one constant throughout them all. The value of soaking up a new way of life, the people, and additional travel that may come along with it, is invaluable to me.

I'm going to miss my friends, many of whom I call my family. And I already know I'll be sending loads of photos to my parents and my sister. Six hours ahead doesn't seem like too inconvenient of a time difference, and then I realized that the standard 9-5 working hours in the States might just have me staying up until midnight to chat with my people or dodge my friends' classes back on campus at F&M. I've also accumulated a few letters and going away gifts that will undoubtedly make me teary! The decision to go abroad feels so natural to me, and part of me just wants everyone else to come along too. I know it might be scary at first, and many new things are! Underneath the tinge of nerves and a little sadness is pure excitement waiting to burst through.

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Katlyn Clarke

Hi! I'm Katie. I enjoy iced matcha lattes, sunset walks, and Bernedoodles! I'm a huge book lover, and will easily pick up the newest summer romance. I also have a knack for crafting playlists for friends and could listen to the same song all day!

2023 Fall
Home University:
Franklin & Marshall College
Creative Writing
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