The Transformative Journey of Studying Abroad

EdOdysseyTravel

My name is Amanda and I recently graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with my bachelor’s in psychology. I have always been fascinated by how people perceived their situations and the process of finding one’s identity. Being from California, there is plenty of diversity represented in the state, but I wanted to delve into conversations with other nationalities to gain a greater sense of cultural awareness. 

Travel has been very good to me over the last five years, but the places I explored during my time overseas was more than just a check off of my bucket list. It transformed my life for the better. I sought to expand my horizons about culture and international education, and the adventures I had during my time studying abroad surpassed all expectations.  

High School: An Unexpected Friendship 

For the majority of students, myself included, we daydream about what an epic adventure would be like. I knew that I wanted to go abroad at some point when I was in high school. Though I was uncertain about what might happen in the future, I wondered what life would be like if I had the opportunity to study abroad. I knew that I would appreciate traveling, but I had no idea the impact it would have on my life from a personal and educational perspective.

Nicki and I capturing a moment together during our last day of Junior year.

Nicki and I capturing a moment together during our last day of Junior year.

During my Junior year in high school, I met an exchange student from Bangkok and had the best time getting to hear her story. We developed a close friendship during her time in California and enjoyed learning about each other's backgrounds. It was certainly hard saying goodbye, but I loved being able to communicate with a friend somewhere else in the world. This prompted the idea that I could connect with a greater quantity of international students, and the dream of studying overseas was ignited. 

Finding the Right Fit 

Later on, as I approached my freshman year in college, I became an avid researcher on all things study abroad happening on campus. I wanted to find out everything I could about the application process and how life would be in another part of the world. For various reasons, my luck kept falling short on being able to apply to a program. 

Enjoying the sights during my first international solo trip.

Enjoying the sights during my first international solo trip.

Do you know that feeling when you sense the urge to try something exciting? If you're thinking about traveling, it can be hard to ignore it for too long. There are so many countries waiting to be explored, and the possibilities that studying abroad provides enables you to take a dive into a culture you’ve always wanted to understand. 

From high school into college, I never let go of my dream of studying abroad. I wanted to immerse myself into somewhere unfamiliar, and strove to get out of the bubble I had developed in my hometown. 

In the meantime during college, I had solo-travelled, but consistently returned with the idea of living overseas. It wasn’t until I transferred to California State University, Sacramento, that I was fortunate enough to be mentored by my Study Abroad Advisors and was accepted into a year-long experience overseas.

Determination drove me to studying abroad, and if traveling is something you have always wanted to do, keep at that dream, because it’s completely possible. 

Studying Abroad Down Under

As a student walking onto a new campus, everything seems exciting. Studying abroad felt very similar in regard to starting classes and trying to make as many friends as possible.

My roommates and I exploring Hosier Lane in Melbourne, which is known for its graffiti artists and street art.

My roommates and I exploring Hosier Lane in Melbourne, which is known for its graffiti artists and street art.

One of my biggest takeaways while abroad was this beneficial outlook -- Traveling is more than just a location, it’s about stepping into a new world with an open mind. I gained this mindset while I was living abroad in Melbourne, Australia, and sought to hear more about my roommate’s upbringings, since two were locals and the others were international students from Malaysia and Taiwan. 

“All the people you meet on the path of life have something to teach you.”
- Unknown 

Having the unique opportunity to live with various cultures is such a special and noteworthy circumstance. Becoming aware of preconceived notions, language barriers, distinct values, and lifestyles of others made me start appreciating travel for its unexpected opportunities. There are people I met during my journey that I wouldn’t have met if I didn’t take the chance. 

Adaptability Makes a Difference  

Practicing throwing a boomerang for the first time, which was incredibly challenging!

Practicing throwing a boomerang for the first time, which was incredibly challenging!

During my program, adaptability was key because it allowed me to overcome unforeseen obstacles. I had found out quickly how I had reacted in unfamiliar situations and learned how much I did not know prior about the world. 

Studying abroad allowed me to be a resourceful problem solver and utilize strengths I never truly knew I had… For instance, learning the customs of dining out; such as not tipping waiters and paying at the register rather than at the table, were little habits I had to get used to. These are just a few examples of having to take a situation as it is, and make the most of it. 

Frustrating moments became valuable lessons, and in turn, have developed into skills I will be able to carry with me for the rest of my life. 

Personal Growth 

Another asset that came from studying abroad involved personal growth. I had to get over the fear of talking to strangers and learn how to start relatable conversations in classes with peers. I had the opportunity to take advantage of my curiosity. If I would have dismissed my thoughts and focused on the “What Ifs”, I would have never learned some of the things that I did whilst abroad. 

I was so fortunate to have found an undiscovered part of myself in Australia, and I improved on my independence, confidence, resiliency, and ignored my limitations. All of the challenges and accomplishments that come with studying abroad helps you discover who you are. 

Returning Home: Keeping My Experience Alive

Visiting the famous Brighton Bathing Houses in Melbourne, Australia.

Visiting the famous Brighton Bathing Houses in Melbourne, Australia.

Once I landed on U.S. soil, I realized that I came back as a changed individual alongside of amazing memories and wanted to help others discover the passion that comes from traveling. The immense possibilities of growth from international education and travel is priceless. 

Inspired from my experience in Australia, I became a Study Abroad Alumni Ambassador with my college’s study abroad office. Although I was working, studying, and volunteering during my last semester in college, I realized I wanted to make prospective students a priority because of how powerful my time abroad was. I wanted others who had the same dream, the same passion, the same drive; to experience something incomparable. 

I advised peers, discussed programs, and most importantly, listened to their stories. My time abroad and the education I received, both in and out of the classroom, is something I wanted to share with other students and excite them about cultural immersions guaranteed to make an impact.

Though studying abroad is as exhilarating as it is intimidating, you don’t have to be unsure about looking into a program that catches your eye. You’re not in this alone, and there’s plenty of advisors and other international students who are there for you every step of the way. 

Lifelong Connections Create Transformative Experiences

Hanging out with this furry friend at a wildlife sanctuary. This kangaroo in particular loved the snacks.

Hanging out with this furry friend at a wildlife sanctuary. This kangaroo in particular loved the snacks.

When I was in high school, I never considered the lifelong connections I could have with international students. There are so many friendships I have made from my time abroad. These connections are more than just memories, they’re relationships that can be maintained.

You can’t have transformation without going through a learning process and appreciating all of its lessons. Travel helps us reflect on how experiences shape new interests and outlooks.  If you look to study abroad for a few weeks, or a few months, you might be surprised to come back with more than pictures and souvenirs.

If you’re thinking about studying abroad and trying to learn more about it, definitely check out myths surrounding studying abroad here!