The emotional recap of studying abroad

Note: I wrote this while in a museum in France in December 2014, so it is not recent. 

This semester was romantic. Europe encompasses the word in every sense – the architecture, the landscape, the cities, the countryside, the mountains, the ocean, the fashion, the European men to swoon over, and the ones you long for back across the ocean.

This semester will forever remain in my mind as the “bubble semester.” It feels as if I’ve been in a happy bubble for the past three and a half months. Even when “the worst” seemed to happen, good normally came as a result. I’ve learned how to be a happier, more accepting human being (but I’ve still maintained my selective cynical side – have no fear).

At my core, I am still the same person. All my faults are still there, I’ve just become even more aware of them than I already was. I did not go through some radical metamorphism because I put myself on a different continent. I have, however, been able to step aside from the comfortable routine that was my life for the past two years, close to one of the longest durations of time in a single location for me. I became able to evaluate myself, the people in my life, the things in my life, and my future with a fresh mindset.

Before I came to Europe, I was adamant my life would remain virtually the same and that nothing too terribly drastic would happen. It seemed silly that a single semester of temporarily relocating to a different country should really alter much. How could a mere three months mean a different world on the other side of that time? Not much had changed over two years, so what impact could three months bring?

I like to think I’m wise beyond my years, but alas, I am not. And while studying abroad does not have to bring major changes to anyone’s world, it allows you to live your life outside of that routine and see what’s worth maintaining and what’s strong enough to hold once that routine is broken.

Frankly, while the past few months have brought changes that may linger on the brink of “major” to me, they’ll have a zero to completely irrelevant impact on the rest of the human race.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to embrace change with open arms and a warm hug. Because hugs are nice. Adapting has become a necessary skill in my life, but for whatever reason I feared coming back to a changed Columbia wayyy more than I should have.

I have become so much more accepting of myself and other things and I’m not afraid to embrace things I might not have embraced before. And that’s really helped me appreciate some things I wouldn’t have appreciated in the past.

* * *

It’s been another two months or so since I first wrote this. Yes, Columbia was incredibly different on my return. No, it wasn’t (isn’t) perfect. All aspects of change, obviously, require some level of acclimating and adjusting yourself. And while there are still some battles of change I feel like I’m fighting head-on, I’m okay. I have those days where I wish everything could just go back to how it used to be, but then I force myself to look at where I am now, how I’ve grown as a person, and how where I want to be in the future has changed. And that makes it all worth it. Because, at least for today, I will be back in Europe with a job, I will accomplish the lofty goals I have in place, I will recognize everything has happened as it’s supposed to. And as far as I’m concerned, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish any of that if I had four years of routine continuity in college.

One thought on “The emotional recap of studying abroad

  1. John Mann says:

    Very well composed and written; inciteful and introspective for a person your age, especially a fruitcake. I still maintain fruit cakes are my most favorite thing in the world.
    I love you with all my heart!
    Grandpa

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