The night before I left for France, I panicked. My suitcase was stuffed, my visa was prepped and my alarm was set for an early morning drive to San Francisco. What had I gotten myself into?
I love my home university. I love walking down the sidewalk and seeing familiar faces. I love meeting professors for coffee. I love late night talks about spiritual struggles, and early morning giggles before class. I love what is comfortable and what is safe. I love what I know.
I panicked that night because I was willingly heading towards what I don’t know - a language I am far from perfect at speaking, a culture that is different from my own and a city where I had no connections. I did not know anything. To be honest, after a month of being here, there is still so much I don’t know.
Studying abroad is the intentional decision to uproot yourself from what you know. It isn’t as easy as buying a plane ticket, or filling out a visa application. It is choosing to leave the places, the people and the things you love. For me, it was saying goodbye to school traditions, Thursday night Bible studies, Saturday morning coffee runs and shared meals with my dearest friends.
Studying abroad is not an easy decision - and that is exactly why we need to do it. This past month has been harder than I ever expected. It has also been one of the best months of my life. I have hiked to glaciers in the Alps. I have stayed up late with new friends that make my city feel like home. I have become so much more confident in my spoken French. I have laughed until I cried, and I have cried until I learned to laugh about my mistakes.
Prospective study abroad students, I know how scary spending a semester or a year away from what you know and love can be. I encourage you to do what is difficult and step out of your comfort zone. Living like a local is a challenging, cherished, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Take advantage of it.
Students preparing to study abroad soon, I am so excited for you. I am so glad that you are my fellow travelers, and I cannot wait to hear your stories and see how you grow. When fear sets in the night before you leave, be bold. What is waiting for you on the other side of that flight is priceless.
Let us continue to do what is difficult, and become better people for it. Let us continue to travel and grow.
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