Studying abroad this past semester was one of the best experiences of my life. All the good things I expected to happen did happen. Like seeing amazing places, meeting amazing people and getting pushed outside of my comfort zone. However a lot of things happened that I didn’t expect too, mainly finding things out about myself that only living abroad could have taught me.
One of the most amazing things that I found studying abroad was the chance to travel but not be on ‘vacation.’ It’s a rare opportunity to be able to go to a new country for a few months and not need to be changing your life in the long run immensely. You know you will be coming back and you know you will still be working on school, so to me it’s the best time to try out living in a new country. The places you get to see while studying abroad is fantastic.
There’s a certain determination that I had being an exchange student to fit as much in as I could, and I know that sentiment was shared among the other exchange students I met. It’s amazing how much you can fit into your schedule if you’re set on seeing and experiencing as much as you can. So as expected, while I was abroad I was able to take small trips around New Zealand’s North Island while I was in school. Coming home, I’m reinvigorated to take more weekend trips when I have the time now and really experience Vancouver like an exchange student would.
Of course, the other amazing part of being abroad (which was hoped for more than expected) was meeting so many amazing friends. I loved being able to set up a new friend network and I’m not even an overly social person. It really boosted my self-confidence knowing that I could make friends in new places and gave me encouragement to continue to live in new places and not be held back by the fear of loneliness.
What I didn’t expect was that I would be able to gain confidence while abroad. I was PUSHED out of my comfort zone landing in a new country and not knowing anyone and that forced me to build my social skills and experience life in a new way, no family and friends, just me. I also had the opportunity to travel alone and I was able to prove to myself that I’m more then capable of surviving on my own. I really had to get used to my own company traveling alone which gave me a lot of time for introspection.
So in conclusion, if you’re thinking about studying abroad… do it! I think it does, however, take certain personality traits to be able to really enjoy the experience. The main one being adventurous, but if your considering studying abroad, you probably already are.
Read Jesse's reports (.pdf) on his semester abroad at Unitec Institute of Technology.