Words by Allison Adams, a CAPA London alumna from Saint Ambrose University.
Studying abroad was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.
Like shaking, heart-racing, palm-sweating kind of scary.
I vividly remember my parents driving to me to the airport to embark on my 3-month adventure and thinking, what have I gotten myself into? In that moment, I wanted to tell my dad to stop the car and take me home.
It was going to be the longest time I had ever been away from home and that made me extremely nervous. I was born and raised in a small town in Iowa where my graduating class had 85 students. I completely loved growing up there but it didn’t leave much room for cultural experiences or pushing my boundaries.
This was the first time I really had to step outside of the box I had restricted myself to; and I was terrified. But with all that being said….
Studying abroad was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
I’ve told so many people this after my time abroad and it sounds very cliche, but it really did shape me into a different person and set me on a path I never thought I could take.
This summer, I am living in Nashville, TN, 654 miles away from my hometown, and interning at the Grand Ole Opry. That sentence is one I never, ever thought I would be able to say; and I truly believe my time abroad was the stepping stone to landing an internship of my dreams. I never would have applied for an internship in a different state without the confidence I gained from catapulting myself out of my comfort zone.
So, how do you do this? Well, it’s easier than you think.
You have to go into your semester with an open mind. Living in a different country in itself is not comfortable, and you’re not going to like everything you experience. Some days you’ll be frustrated because you don’t understand a certain custom, tradition, or experience.
My advice is, instead of getting upset or annoyed, try to understand why that thing is the way that it is. This will help put things into perspective for you. You don’t have to love everything you experience.
But you do have step outside of your routine. It is so, so, so easy to sit in your flat on a weekend and binge watch an entire season of Netflix. After a long week of school and internship hours, sometimes all I wanted to do was that. But you have to take a step back and realize that you have a limited time in this place, so you have to make the most of it.
Coming out of your comfort zone doesn’t to be hard or life-changing. It could even just be asking your internship supervisor if you can help with a project, talking with people at a festival, or even just trying out a local pub. We all have our limitations, but we all have the ability to push those limitations as well.
When I think back on my three months in London, I don’t remember the times I was comfortable. I remember those moments where I was pushed to my limit. I remember being stuck in an airport for 10 hours. I remember getting lost in the middle of the city, multiple times. I remember the times I didn’t understand British slang and felt like an idiot.
But I remember even more what it felt like to be on top of the Cliffs of Moher, how it felt the first time I stepped on the Tube, touring the legendary BBC, being in the Royal Albert Hall while thousands of British people sang patriotic songs and waved their country’s flag, and how good it felt to know that I can navigate a foreign city by myself.
But mostly, I remember how sad I was to leave a place I fell in love after three months.
So in short, just leave your imaginary boxes back home and step out into the world and explore because this is an experience that you won’t regret.