As of April 30, 2019, I officially finished my semester abroad at Westfield House in Cambridge, England. Just typing that sentence is unbelievable because I never thought I would be able to study abroad. This semester has been such an incredible and life-changing experience. I am so thankful for all the people who made it possible for me. If I had to pick one word to describe this whole experience and semester I would choose “surreal.” Merriam-Webster defines surreal as “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream” with synonyms such as “fantastic” and “unbelievable.” In many ways this semester has been a dream come true. I cannot recommend strongly enough what an incredible experience studying abroad has been. Obviously, I can only speak from my own experience, but if study abroad is even a slight possibility try as hard as possible to make it happen.
I could write pages and pages about what I want other people to know about study abroad, but I doubt anyone would want to read all of that and this is just a short blog post so I will choose just a few. First, I think many shy away from study abroad because of the expense. Travel in the United States is very expensive. Honestly, my plane ticket to and from the U.S. was the most expensive part of my entire semester. Study abroad does not have to cause additional financial strain. There are more scholarships available for students studying abroad and this semester, even with all my travel and other expense, ended up being significantly less expensive than a normal semester at Concordia. The money that I did spend was not going toward tuition or room and board but to incredible trips across Europe that I will never forget. This aspect of study abroad depends heavily on what each person chooses to spend their money on, but with good planning and budgeting study abroad does not have to be an additional cost of college and might even save money!
Second, also dependent on each person and program, I will never get another chance like this to travel. Westfield House does not have classes on Friday, so each weekend was a three-day weekend and a much lighter homework load gave me so much freedom to travel. Not so much in England but in other parts of Europe students can get a cheaper price on train or bus tickets and special discounts as museums. In Paris my friends and I got into Versailles, the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and the Pantheon for free because we were students! Nowhere in the United States can you get a flight for $20 and just hop over to another country for the weekend or take a short train ride and end up at the Queen’s country estate. It is wild to watch movies or read books set in Europe and recognize all the places I have been in the last four months. There are so many things I could regret not getting to do but it would take multiple lifetimes to go to all the places I want to visit. Instead, reflecting on the semester, I almost cannot believe all the places I have been because they are places I never thought I would visit.
Finally, studying abroad has given me a much broader perspective of myself and the world. The ability to travel and experience a taste of life in other countries is an eye-opening experience. There are some things that I am very excited to come back to in the U.S., but there are other things I will miss about Europe. England is a very orderly country and I have come to appreciate this so much. For example, riding an escalator everyone standing stays on the right side while people walking up or down can pass on the left side. So simple! Stepping out of American culture and the places I was familiar with, even just for such a short time, has been so good to reevaluate what I do and why. This, I think, is the most important reason to study abroad. While saving money and traveling the world are incredible, the personal changes and growth I have seen in myself is what I am most proud of. I am not coming back to the U.S. as the same person I was when I left. I cannot exactly explain what is different, and maybe others will not even notice, but there is a difference. I feel like I have rediscovered and uncovered new parts of myself. I do not yet know how this will translate back into American culture and how my new perspectives and thoughts will fit into my old spaces, but I am so excited to see what happens and for all the adventures I will have in the future!
Last modified: May 15, 2019