November 20, 2014

Traveling the globe: Why every student should study abroad in college

If there is one piece of advice I can give any college freshmen, it is to plan to study abroad. During the fall semester of my junior year, I was given the wonderful opportunity to study at University College London in the United Kingdom. The fun times I had abroad will always remain as some of my best memories.

I was in a city full of millions of people from all corners of the world. I was also considered more of an adult. At 20 years old, I could legally consume alcohol, had to buy groceries, cook my own food and generally had more responsibilities like budgeting my money and setting my own curfews.

And yet, it was so fun. I had the city at my disposal and it was up to me which opportunities to seize, which places to go and which people to associate myself with.

Part of the reason I had such a blast abroad is because it was the first time I really lived in a city. And living in any city — European or not — has its perks and advantages.

But London just stole my heart.

Is it even appropriate to talk about a city as if it was a person, capable of evoking such powerful emotions? My experience tells me it is. Yes, I was in London for a semester to study, but it was also a time to travel, a time to meet people and a time to learn about myself. I went on weekend getaways to Brussels, Dublin, Milan and Paris. I joined the London University Swim Team, seeing it as an opportunity to both stay active and make friends. These experiences were perhaps the most memorable, but also the most eye-opening.

The part I loved most about London, however, is not the places, the travels or even the people. What I loved most about London is who I became. It was scary being abroad by myself, but I embraced it fully and learned to be comfortable in my own skin. I learned to extend my comfort zone and went on excursions alone, only to leave with new friends. In a city of millions of people who do not know me and possibly will never see me again after the three months I spend there, I could be anything. I chose to be more outgoing, to meet as many people as I could, and more importantly, to seize every opportunity to travel and see new places. This very decision proved to be the best and most rewarding decision I have ever made.

I will never forget this city, never forget this time of my life, and never forget the great people I have met. London will always be magical to me, and mark my words — I will be back! 

For more information on Katrina and the Earl Woods Scholarship Program, please visit the program website.