Having had the privilege to study abroad for two semesters in two different countries, I figured now was a good time to take a step back and reflect on how different my two experiences abroad were and how each helped shape me into the person I am today.
When I came to Arcadia, I didn’t have the intentions of studying abroad. I was undecided and was choosing my major between Pre-Law, Pre-PT, or Communications. As I looked deeper into majors and crossed off anything in the science field (it’s just not my thing), I found Arcadia’s Majors Abroad Programs (MAPs). I absolutely fell in love with the Global Media major and the idea that I had to study abroad for two semesters in order to graduate. Here I am, almost a year away from graduating with my Bachelors in Global Media with a concentration in New Media Journalism and a minor in Pre-Law (I got the best of both worlds).
My semester abroad during the fall last year was my first time outside of the United States. I figured that if I could live in Australia for four months with a 14-hour time difference between me and my support system back home, I’d be able to do anything. Looking back, I can now say that I underestimated the distance from home and the length of time away from my family and friends. Those four months were some of the hardest of my life, but they taught me so much about myself and about being able to overcome some significant homesickness to explore a new culture. That semester was the turning point from me becoming dependent on others to me becoming more independent and confident in myself.
Having that experience in the back of my mind, I felt that I was much better prepared for the time I spent in London. I was only dealing with a five-hour time difference, so I was able to talk to my family and friends more often. I was able to maintain my relationships with my family, my boyfriend, and my friends even though we were an ocean away. I knew what I needed to do in order to allow myself to succeed, and I was able to put myself in a position to thrive. I experienced the British culture with open arms, and I fell in love with the country. I thrived in my independence and I embraced becoming a Londoner.
I was able to use my experiences and what I learned in Australia to maximize my experiences and opportunities in England. Those two semesters spent abroad and those two countries will always hold an important place in my heart. I went from someone who felt homesick at college an hour from home my freshman year, to someone who’s lived and thrived in two different countries for months at a time. The personal growth that studying abroad has given me can’t be measured. I’ve learned to live on my own, to create my own paths and opportunities, and to embrace cultures that were unfamiliar to me.
Coming home is always a weird experience. I learned in Australia that reverse culture shock is a thing – having spent four months in another country, you find yourself comparing everything and anything in your home country to where you were abroad. I love the United States, but Great Britain and Australia will always have a piece of my heart. While I’m happy to be home, I also find myself missing the places that I had the privilege of calling home. While I want to talk to anyone and everyone about the amazing experiences I’ve had overseas, they get tired of hearing about it. It’s almost tougher to come back home and adjust than it is to adjust to the new culture where you study abroad.
As my two semesters abroad come to a close, I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic. All the planning, applications, budgeting, and anticipation of looking forward to a new adventure have come to a close. It makes me sad knowing that I’ll be in Pennsylvania next year and not living in and exploring a new country. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pennsylvania, but being abroad is a whole different adventure. I couldn’t be happier with the classes I’ve taken, the connections I’ve made, and the opportunities that have crossed my way. I’ve loved getting to learn about my field of study in different cultures and seeing their take on media and journalism, and I’ve loved getting to live in a new culture and explore and embrace the differences.
If you asked me before I left for Australia what I was expecting to get out of my semesters abroad, I would have said something like some great experiences. Looking back at my two semesters, I can say that I’ve gained so much more than I could have ever imagined. I’m so thankful for the opportunities I’ve earned, the experiences I’ve had, and the people I’ve met.
Australia helped me find my true identity in a new culture, without the sport that had always defined my identity. England helped me find my identity within the sport and helped me remember why I play softball. Both countries and experiences played a vital role in shaping me as a person and maturing me, and I can’t even begin to describe how grateful I am for that.
To Australia and England, thank you for showing me who I am and for taking me through some of the hardest experiences of my life. Without you, I wouldn’t know who I truly am.