Life-changing study abroad experiences

Melissa Nickels

Students always hear, “Going abroad will change your life!” and while that may be a cliché statement, it could not be truer. Studying abroad is not merely a matter of gaining a new perspective on life. It’s also about immersing yourself in a culture where you can expand your horizons, obtain irreplaceable knowledge and grow as an individual.

If you have an interest in studying abroad and a part of you says go but the other part of you says, no…go. Although it took me two years to convince my parents to let me go to another country, I pushed until I made the idea become a possibility. I began my research on countries, universities, class courses and tuition fees. The stress of figuring out how to succeed at acquiring financial aid, finding a location and university that seemed right for me and then applying for the program paid off in the end because I turned the possibility into a reality…

Going to Kingston University, 20 minutes outside of the busiest city in the world, London, enabled me to do all of that. I stepped off that plane, not having a clue how to navigate through the enormous Heathrow Airport. I arrived at my landlady’s house, not having a clue how to figure out which bus would get me to my university.

I show up with wide eyes at my university, not having a clue what my first days of classes would be like. I didn’t know anyone. I was alone in an overwhelming place and I knew nothing. While that may seem daunting, it actually was not. I felt liberated! I thought, “Wow I am truly on my own over here. I have to navigate my way, by myself. I have to become aware of the lifestyle around here and learn about the norms, by myself. And I like this.”

I put myself in a situation where I had no option but to talk to people, to figure out which train to go on to take me to the right place, which underground to use (mind the gap!), and I let myself get lost, so that I could find and become aware of things. I couldn’t help but feel a strong sense of pride once a couple weeks and a couple months went by and finally knew where I was going.

Studying abroad is an adventure. It’s easy to be afraid at first, especially if you have never been away from family and friends for a long period of time, or even outside of the States. But you will come back more confident than when you left. You will be better for having studied abroad. The significance is you will have a memory and an experience to carry with you for the rest of your life. I cherished my time over in Kingston. I hold on to my memories; I reminisce often, and I stay in contact with the friends I made. You never know…one day you might want to see your friends and travel again. One day, you might go back.

Studied Abroad: Fall 2013, Kingston University, Kingston Upon Thames, England