This is Emily's last post in the series. She reflects on the ways in which she's changed since she started her program. We wish you all the best, Emily, and thanks so much for sharing your jurney with us!
- - -
I have accomplished a lot of “firsts” this semester. I’ve met celebrities, helped break a world record, traveled by airplane, journeyed across the country, stayed in a hostel by myself, gone horseback riding, hung out in the U.S. Embassy, hiked the Cornish coast, and made new friends all over Great Britain. Needless to say, it was the best semester of my life. But amidst all these amazing new adventures, I’ve realized that somewhere along the way, I changed.
I knew I would. At least, that’s what everyone I’d ever talked to about study abroad had said would happen. But it was one of those things where you don’t truly believe what everyone’s telling you until it actually happens. I guess it was inevitable though. How could anyone experience so many new things and not change? During my time in London, I could feel myself shifting. There were obvious changes, of course, that were necessary to fitting in, like generally dressing better and using the appropriate cultural lingo, but with time back in the United States, those types of changes will start to fade away.
Fortunately, those weren’t the only things about me that changed because of my semester abroad. I also developed immensely on a personal level. Most were simply areas of growth. Things I’d been working on for years that changed more rapidly through the intensity of study abroad. Others were outcomes that I had not at all expected. Consequently, I thought in this last post, intermixed with some of my favorite photos from this semester, I would share a few of the more unique ways study abroad has changed me as a person.
I HAVE OVERCOME (SOME OF) MY ANXIETY.
Okay, so it still likes to rear its ugly head from time to time, but my semester in London chipped away at my anxiety like I’ve never experienced before. It’s a monster I’ve dealt with my entire life, but being placed into such a new environment actually helped me to thrive. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment where things started to change, but gradually, I didn’t feel so anxious anymore. I guess it would seem weird that my anxiety would improve in such an intense setting, but I think it just forced me to be bold in most situations and see what happened. I did a lot of things on my own, from site seeing to my travels around Cornwall, and some things just couldn’t be done through email. If I didn’t call that restaurant and make a reservation, I simply wouldn’t get to go. No one else was there to do it for me.
I also credit it to the learning style of my CAPA classes and their awesome professors. It was so easy for me to share my thoughts in class. I was sure of my answers and opinions because I’d experienced what we were talking about in real life. I’d seen the art piece with my own eyes. I’d watched the theatre performance the previous week. Never before in my life have I felt little to no nervousness before doing a class presentation. That’s not to say that it didn’t get worse sometimes, because it did. I loved Samantha’s blog post about dealing with her anxiety while abroad because I related to it so well and her advice was so practical. But I did conquer my anxiety a little bit and hopefully I can use this experience to learn about and carry on doing whatever helps me to reduce it.
I HAVE GAINED THE CONFIDENCE TO LEAVE HOME.
My friends and family are not going to be too thrilled with this one! It’s true though. This has been one of the biggest discoveries of the semester and I’m just as surprised as anyone else. That’s not to say that I will definitely move away from home or that I wouldn’t prefer to stay in Arizona (if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that the weather in Arizona is wonderful). It’s just that the fear of leaving my home state is pretty much nonexistent after my semester abroad.
One of my biggest fears about this semester was that I’d constantly be homesick. I’m pretty close to my family and I was afraid that I’d constantly be wishing they were abroad with me. I can honestly say though, there wasn’t a single day I wanted to go home. I was so shocked by how much I didn’t miss it. Of course, working outside of Arizona won’t be as much constant fun as study abroad was, but I’ve learned that as long as I’m fully engaged in something I’m passionate about, I’ll be just fine. Being a senior graduating in May, this means I’ll be looking into so many more opportunities than what I would have considered before studying abroad.
I HAVE BECOME A PHOTOGRAPHER.
I bought my first camera a few weeks before my semester in London began. Knowing nothing about cameras, I spent months trying to decide what model to buy. I was a beginner and wanted something easy, but also wanted high quality pictures. I’d always had a bit of a hunch that I would love photography, so I purchased a bridge model. Basically, a point and shoot that had incredible zoom and felt more like an SLR to hold. It ended up being perfect.
On average, I took around 20 photos per day and of course that only includes the photos that turned out decent. Probably double that amount were blurry, accidentally zoomed in, on the wrong setting, etc. Hey, I’m still learning! I want to learn even more and though I have a fondness for my first little red Nikon bridge model, I am already itching to get something with better image quality and more manual control. Studying abroad this semester, I have found a new passion in photography that I am determined to keep developing and challenging myself in, because there’s absolutely nothing like getting a shot you’re really proud of.
These were just three things about me that changed over the course of my study abroad semester. I have also become a better listener, an active learner, more independent, more assertive, have learned to trust my instincts, and become more focused on my career goals and what I want to pursue in life. In 10 years, I’ll probably be able to look back and find even more areas of growth that have presented themselves because of my time in London. Apart from the experience just being fun and exciting and a huge leap of faith, study abroad really did change me in so many different ways. I know I will never forget my time in the UK and all it’s done for me. I also know that for me, it’s been just the beginning of a lifetime of growing and changing through traveling abroad.