When I decided to study abroad for a semester, my first choice was Scotland and my second was France. After getting accepted into the exchange program but not my first two choices, my University’s International Office offered me an extensive list of other universities to choose from. The fate of my location would be on a first come first serve basis, so I had to act quickly. Desperate to really go anywhere abroad, I chose Utrecht, Netherlands with only the little knowledge of a treaty signed there in 1713. Flash forward 6 months and I am getting off a plane at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam giggling to Dutch announcements in the train station and trying to navigate my way around this new foreign country. Flash forward another 6 months, 15 countries, some 24+ cities, and a group of incredible international friends, and I am a world away from where I started. I learned more in these 6 months abroad than I can iterate in one post, but in my opinion here are the three most important.
1. Sometimes, it is actually easier done than said.
Building a new life may seem impossible at times. I mean you have your friends, family, home, your favourite local café, and all that is so…comfortable. But, sometimes comfort isn’t the best thing. Once you actually make the move, you realize that the comfort is dependent on yourself and the rest will fall into place. Yes your family is irreplaceable, but the friends you meet along the way become a pseudo-family, the café down the street makes better coffee than your old one, and home becomes a word used to refer to a few places instead of one.
2. You can, and should, travel alone.
Despite using your GPS everywhere you go when you are home, you are less directionally challenged than you think. Once you realize that you are capable of navigating a new city on your own, other possibilities begin to seem endless. Before I travelled alone while backpacking, living in a new city eased many of the concerns I initially had about travelling on my own. When I realized I could navigate not only the city I was living in but also the country with ease, I knew that travelling was not that different. We are capable of more than we think.
3. Travelling is the key to understanding yourself.
Once you take yourself out of your comfort zone, natural surroundings, and the pressures of the society you come from, you realize what you truly want in life. I now realize that while I was being young and carefree, I was actually subconsciously doing some serious soul searching leading me to a place of understanding about who I want to be as an individual in this world. Pressure from family, school, and even oneself clouds passion and judgment. Remove yourself from everything you know, and what you don’t know becomes a lot more clear.