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Studying abroad is terrifying, but worth it

Studying abroad is terrifying, but worth it

Studying abroad is terrifying, but worth it
February 01
20:17 2020

Even before I arrived at UNT, I knew that studying abroad was the ultimate goal during my college career. When I was in high school, I signed up for a People2People Delegation, a student ambassador program created by President Eisenhower that combines cultural experiences with community service. The three weeks I spent in the United Kingdom and Ireland with my People2People delegation inspired me to take this opportunity a step further by studying abroad in college. 

I chose to study abroad in London last summer with fellow Mayborn students so I could take journalism courses while experiencing daily British life and international journalism. Even after my five weeks in London, I still believe that traveling outside the U.S. can be incredibly insightful, but studying abroad genuinely changed my academic, professional and personal life for the better. 

To say the least, I was utterly terrified during my first week in London. This was my first time traversing British supermarkets and navigating the underground subway system, most commonly known as the Tube. My classes’ first-time grocery shopping in London was a hilarious, two hour experience of walking down every aisle and becoming frustrated when we could not find the American cereal brands we were accustomed to. Our first trip on the Tube was a dizzying trek across central London accompanied by mispronouncing each stop in the Tube. 

Being thrown into the deep end of London’s everyday life and transportation left me scared to leave the comfort of our apartments, but luckily my fellow classmates shared those same fears and we vowed to get each other out of our comfort zones. 

Although as a college student there is a significant amount of independence placed upon us, having the vast opportunities of the city has helped me be more open to different experiences while not feeling the anxiety of being a small fish in a very large pond. You are not entirely on your own, but phone service and Wi-Fi are not readily available everywhere and you are in a completely different city, surrounded by over 8 million people. 

I mean, the entire point of being abroad is too well, be abroad. So of course, having these fun experiences is a big part of studying abroad, but there is that little word “study” tacked on, so academics are equally as important. It’s all about time management and discipline in order to stay on top of classwork and maintain a social life while abroad. 

As cliché as it sounds, wandering around central London with my classmates forged some lifelong bonds and after the trip, I have maintained my friendships with my peers and other friends I met in London. Seeing my classmates and friends every single day during the five weeks was sometimes tiring, but without them, I would not have had the incredible memories and friendships that we shared. 

Additionally, the camaraderie between students and professors allowed each of us to bond and express our professional goals without fighting for the professor’s attention. These student-professor relationships allowed us to receive career and academic advice to help us in our summer classes and future semesters at UNT. 

Our classes were fully immersed in the British community too, with assignments centered around nearby London neighborhoods and British advertising. Due to this immersion, I was able to learn the art of cultural competency, or the ability to understand and interact with people across different cultures. With our world becoming more globalized every day, it’s imperative as students to learn how to interact with professionals from across cultures and to be mindful of differing cultural norms and practices. 

Everything I experienced in London, from the field trips to media organizations to the beautiful afternoons spent in the park with my classmates, has shaped me into what I believe myself to be a more understanding and confident student and person. Self-discipline and cultural competency have allowed me to become a more focused and determined student since London. 

If not for my experiences in London, I would not have finally settled on a career path and decided to go to graduate school. If not for my study abroad experiences, I would not be as confident in my abilities as I am now nor would I have challenged myself in my academics and extracurriculars. If not for my classmates and professors, I would not have a group of lifelong friends nor the expert advice I so desperately sought during last summer. 

Despite the fears and anxieties I felt, I would not trade my experience for the world and I am thankful for the professors, classmates and professionals I met during my five weeks in London. Being in London for five weeks taught me more about myself than my three years at UNT.

To say the least, studying abroad is simultaneously terrifying, enlightening and educational and I encourage everybody to take the leap abroad.

Featured Illustration: Olivia Varnell

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Sarah Berg

Sarah Berg

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1 Comment

  1. Auntie M
    Auntie M February 02, 12:42

    Wonderful article, Sarah! Although I was lucky enought to tour most of Europe for 2 months (during the summer), I can only imagine the difference it would have been to study and not just tour (with students from all over the US- who I’d never see again)

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