5 Months in Europe (& What it Taught Me)

The most pivotal experience in my college career was when I took part in my school’s London Study Abroad program. Being such a large part of my life, I think a whole post should be dedicated to this experience. While my home base was in London, I also traveled to Ireland, Paris, Amsterdam, Budapest, Barcelona, and Prague as well as other small cities throughout the UK.

As clichè as it sounds, studying abroad is extremely rewarding and taught me a lot about myself. Before this program, I had never left the USA. After 5 months in Europe, I felt like a seasoned traveler ready to take on my next adventure. I found the experience to be so incredible, I’m studying abroad again in Italy this summer.

Going into college I had overcome a lot of my anxieties, but still wasn’t where I wanted to be. I felt like I was still holding back from reaching my fullest potential and I didn’t know where to start. I had been hoping to travel to London since I was a 13 year old writing a poem about my dream destination in middle school English class. Since I had never been out of the country, I told myself that traveling was just a dream. I liked to imagine what London would be like in my mind, but never tried to get there. When I found out some people I knew were already signing up for the London Study Abroad program, I felt stuck. It made perfect sense for me to go on paper, but 5 months in a foreign country seemed a little intense for me. I discussed the opportunity with my parents, expecting that they wouldn’t let me go anyway. To my surprise, my parents were actually the biggest advocates for the experience. Considering the program would cost the same amount as a semester of college at home, it seemed there was no reason not to go. So, I went.

London is the place where I really embraced myself. There were times that I felt very alone there, which meant I had to learn to love myself and be content with my own company. Before this trip, I would hate to even go to the bathroom alone. Once I got comfortable in London however, I took myself to coffee shops and flower markets and walked myself to the top of Primrose Hill just so I could spend some time with my thoughts. I became my favorite person to be around, and now I’m constantly taking myself on drives and coffee dates.

Being abroad allowed me to value those with unconditional love for me. My family members, friends from home, and my boyfriend were my biggest supporters while I was away. Seeing how much they missed me and me feeling how much I missed them allowed me to value these real relationships. Since London I have surrounded myself with people who I trust and have my best interest in mind, because I now know what is involved in a real friendship.

I’ve come to understand that many people hesitate to study abroad because they don’t have friends also attending the trip. Honestly, going alone can enhance this experience even more. The people you study abroad with become a family. Starting as strangers, after a week you will be acting as though you’ve known each other for years. For 5 months I spent every single day surrounded by the same group of people until we became a family. After an hour apart, we would miss each other. Now that we’ve been back in America for about a year, we still see each other as often as possible and share a bond that not many people understand.

While seeing the world is a wonderful thing, studying abroad is so much more than hopping on the London Eye and sitting under the Eiffel Tower. It’s an experience that teaches you to be yourself, unapologetically. Sending myself to a foreign country taught me to embrace other cultures as well as my own, and prepared me for the adult world. After traveling from Budapest to London by myself, I feel I can do anything. Although that was a nerve wracking experience, I proved that I am able to take care of myself.

If you have an opportunity to study abroad, take it. And if you do take it, take time for yourself. Reflect, learn, and don’t hold back.

Thanks for reading, talk soon!

-Jess

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Truly beautiful and worth remembering trip with memories and lots of experience.

    Liked by 1 person

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