Study abroad is a different experience for everyone. Even if you go to the same location, have the same group of friends, and go on the same trips, your experience is unique to you and therefore you can take away new and different things. Here are the five things I’ve been reflecting on since returning home that are key skills I hope to continue cultivating.
- While abroad you have so many unique opportunities to see and do things you never thought possible. You will challenge yourself and your understanding of who you are over and over again. Through these challenges you learn much more about how you handle situations which instills infinite confidence. Building this confidence is so important as you venture out into not just your country of choice for your studying, but travel to different areas of the world.
- I have never considered myself to be a particularly flexible person when it comes to making plans. I normally make a detailed itinerary and try to stick to it; I have trouble venturing away from the schedule. While abroad, being flexible and going with the flow is so necessary and something I really had to become comfortable with. When you’re in a new country and a plan falls through, you have to be willing to make changes and make it work.
- Being tenacious and sure in yourself is also incredibly important. Sometimes you will be faced with difficulties and challenges that require you to push for your needs and be your own best advocate. While abroad this was something I had to become more comfortable with. There is nothing wrong with making room for yourself and sometimes that takes a bit more effort.
- While it is important to go with the flow and make things work when something goes wrong, being diligent and prepared is so important when in unfamiliar places. Planning ahead, having an itinerary to outline your day, making reservations, securing tickets online, and in general having an idea of what you need to do, is incredibly important. It will make your travels and studying so much easier and seamless.
- I cannot emphasize enough how important this skill is. Communication really is everything. Whether it’s learning to navigate language barriers, keeping in contact with friends and family back home, cultivating new relationships with people in your IES Abroad program, or coming to know your new professors, being able to communicate your wants and needs with the people around you is so important. We are innately social creatures that need interaction to survive. We cannot take people for granted. Learning to reach out and meet people where they at was an incredibly important skill for me. As they say, communication is key!
Wherever you go and whatever you study while abroad, you will have incredible opportunities beyond the imagination. You cannot possibly envision everything you will experience. As I’ve been home reflecting on my time abroad, it’s clear to me that the little moments meant the most to me. I remember most vividly sitting in coffee shops with new friends, my walks to and from classes, and even the small interactions with locals at the grocery store. Embrace every single moment, journal as much as possible, and breathe in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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My name is Tatyana Masters and I'm from Washington D.C. I can often be found with a book to read and camera on hand, looking for a new adventure or stranger to meet. I go to school in New York City, so in my free time, I like to ride the subway to different areas of the city and interview interesting people I meet for stories!