what studying abroad has taught me so far
Advice Anecdote Ecuador Northern Ireland

A mind in multiple countries: what studying abroad has taught me so far

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During freshman year, I made a commitment to myself that I would make studying abroad a priority. As my interest in international cultures and issues continued growing, my desire to see the world spun around in my mind. Those feelings, placed on top of the study abroad opportunities offered at Ohio University and the new adventure of independence as a  college student, helped lead me to begin researching. Since then, I have traveled to Northern Ireland for a Law, Justice and Culture study abroad class and am preparing to embark on another program in Ecuador where I will be learning about Global Health and studying journalism through reporting on tropical disease research and the culture in Ecuador. After learning so much in Northern Ireland and now doing work to prepare for my trip to Ecuador, I thought I would share what studying abroad has taught me so far.

A wider perspective of history and culture

Studying abroad has introduced me to different perspectives on history, International issues, and cultures.

One of the incredible parts of studying abroad is being totally emersed in new cultures and surrounded by people from different backgrounds than yours. While in Northern Ireland, I was amazed while listening to first-person stories of what other’s lives were like and learning about The Troubles. Getting the chance to talk to people who have experienced different aspects of this world is fascinating and a great way to open your eye to understanding our global world better.

How to travel 

It might not sound hard, but when an ATM

(in another country) eats your credit card or your international charger signals a full bag check at TSA, it’s nice to know what to do.

While the skill of traveling is most beneficial when…well, traveling, it also helps you learn to manage details and build independence while out of your comfort zone. When I traveled abroad in Northern Ireland, I was placed outside of my comfort zone and was faced with issues (such as those seen above) that I had to problem solve and manage while in a new place.

While nerve-wracking at first, pushing myself to take on challenges I wasn’t use to and learn to navigate throughout an airport and abroad left me feeling more comfortable with myself and taught me more about managing and multitasking in a productive way. As I prepare to go to Ecuador, I feel much calmer knowing I’ve already done it before. Feeling comfortable traveling abroad gets easier each time you do it, and I believe taking time in college to learn how to travel is an important skill to learn before being thrown out into the real world (ahh!).

A deeper look into what traveling to Northern Ireland taught me:

Because, if I’m being honest, it changed my life.

To write down everything I learned in Northern Ireland would result in a novel! The trip was an amazing experience and education opportunity that continues to shape me even months after returning to the states. While abroad, I learned a lot of in-depth information about the Troubles, the process of reconciliation, and politics in Northern Ireland. What’s more? The experience really gave me a comprehensive education of studying history through different perspectives and seeing how these different historical perspectives can shape people’s mindsets (pretty cool right?!).

While politics and difference in perspectives are at an all-time high in the U.S., I felt like traveling to Northern Ireland was an experience that gave me regained hope for peace. While abroad, many people would tell stories from vastly different perspectives, while, also, politely allowing others to do the same. For example, my group went on two tours back-to-back. One lead by a loyalist and the other by a nationalist. What happens when they met up at the end, you ask? They acted polite, friendly, and respectful. Seeing people who suffered such harsh conflict put their differences aside and work toward unity was inspiring! Learning from their strength was a remarkable opportunity that made the trip even more life-changing.

Looking forward to traveling to Ecuador:

The departure date is on the horizon! Thanks to my summer Spanish class, I can’t wait to say Hola to Ecuador.

It’s almost time! In a few short weeks, I will be on a plane to Ecuador (Yay!). While preparing for this trip (from learning about the culture, to global health, and organizing my travel affairs) I have, also, been taking a Spanish class to help me have better communication with others in Ecuador. In addition to working on hablando español, I am amazed at the in-depth thinking and educational opportunities study abroad has offered me (Honestly, I already have learned so much more than I ever expected when entering college).

First, before leaving for this trip, I had to complete an assignment that measured my understanding, openness, interpersonal relationships and ability to communicate in international situations (pretty cool right!). The assignment really opened my eyes to what I can continue doing to learn more about the world from an international perspective and reaffirmed that I have a strong openness to learning about other cultures, great interpersonal relationships and can communicate well (Guess I chose the right major lol!).

After completing the assignment, I also had to write a paper about the Chagas disease, Global Health and the meaning of health (in an individual, physical, mental, and society sense) and how there are many different factors impact our overall health.

Both these experiences made me realize something: I have a lot to learn about these different topics! However, getting the opportunity to embrace this educational experience is such a wonderful part of studying abroad. I’m excited to learn and grow (once again) in a fun, excited, and eye-opening way!

I’ll close this section of my post with this: while working on my pre-departure assignments for my trip to Ecuador, I told someone, “If this class is about to teach me nearly what it already has in my pre-departure work over the course of this trip (which I expect it will have no trouble doing), then I am about to learn a whole lot. 🙂

Closing

If you couldn’t tell by now, I really value study abroad and urge anyone interested to make it a priority.

One thing I hear a lot when talking about my love and passion for studying abroad is, “Wait? What do you mean you studied/are going to study abroad? You’re only a freshman (or I guess rising sophomore now;))?”

While, yes, I did just finish freshman year. I share my story in the hopes that it inspires others to travel abroad too. Also, I hope my story helps others choose to study abroad when they feel ready to do so. While most people who choose to study abroad do so around their junior year, (which is wonderful!) I believe it’s important to consider when works best for you based on where you are in your life. For me, I felt the desire to travel early. For others, it might be later. Whenever it feels like the time to take the leap, do it! Because it really is the opportunity of a lifetime!

Thanks for reading about what studying abroad has taught me so far! To learn more about my travels to Northern Ireland, check out my daily blogs from my trip! These posts give you a deeper look at what I learned about law, justice, culture and international traveling. Also, have you had an eye-opening study abroad experience? Comment below about a trip that helped shape your life or even one that you are working on planning! Also, feel free to comment below if you have any question about studying abroad. I’m always up for talking about it!

Photo Credit: Julentto Photography

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