I was born in Maryland. I grew up in Maryland. Now in my first year in college, I am still in Maryland.
Don’t get me wrong: I love my home state. I grew up in a half-rural, half-suburban town, where I learned to drive a snow plough in the winter and a powerboat in the summer. My second home is the small city of Annapolis, where I learned to sail and parallel park. I have attended conferences and concerts in nearby Washington, DC, and now I wake up in a big city every day as a first-year college student in Baltimore.
But in my second semester as an International Studies major, I realized it was time for me to escape my dear Maryland. From the moment I arrived on campus, I was surrounded by people from all over the world. My neighbor down the hall is from Singapore. My best friend is French, but she calls Dubai home. From California to Boston and from Korea to the UK, my closest friends are from far and wide. As a result, the world seems smaller and bigger at the same time.
Upperclassmen in my major trade stories of their travels. From meeting President Trump at the American embassy in Rome to finding monkeys in their hotel room in the Brazilian Amazon, my friends who have gone abroad have returned with unforgettable experiences. But there is another thing my upperclassmen friends have in common: they seem to agree that it was the small, daily experiences abroad that taught them the most, rather than the wild and exotic chance encounters. Adapting to a new cultural environment far from home taught them maturity, confidence, and a sense of familiarity with the unfamiliar.
When I asked a senior whether I should go abroad after only my first year in college, her answer was swift: “Don’t wait. You should go.”
For all these reasons, as well as a wanderlust that eludes explanation, I know that summer study abroad is the right choice for me. That’s why, over the next few weeks, I’ll be preparing to leave my homes in Maryland for a new home in Santiago, Chile. My parents are nervous. To be honest, so was I. The day I committed to Santiago, I was scared of so many things: How will I get around in such a big city? Is my Spanish good enough? Would I be able to handle being alone so far away? What if I wasn’t ready?
But after a few days of nerves, and a few days of disbelief, I feel confident. I’m ready to succeed, but I’m also ready to make mistakes. I know adjusting to a new city and language and lifestyle will be a challenge, but it is the challenge that will help me grow as a person. So if you’re a student like me, wavering on the decision to go abroad, my advice is this:
Don’t wait. You should go.
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<p>Hey there, my name is Megan! I'm from a rural suburb south of Annapolis, Maryland, and like many Annapolitans, I love sailing, summer, and being on the water. When I'm not in my quiet hometown, I'm enjoying (and adjusting to) city life in Baltimore, studying International Studies and Sociology in my first year at Johns Hopkins. This summer, I'll be living and working in a city a bit farther from home: Santiago, Chile!</p>