Planning for study abroad and participating in study abroad are two very different things. As I’m currently in the planning stages, I have yet to experience what living abroad is like, but I can attest to the thoughts and feelings I’ve had about the process so far.
I’ve wanted to study abroad in college since the first moment I started thinking about college. There was never a time I thought about my college career and did not also think about studying abroad. For me, they were in tandem. I could not do one without the other. Although many things haven’t gone the way I planned since I began studying at UW – Madison, my aspirations to study and live in a different country have remained constant. For most of my life, all of my thoughts and ideas towards studying abroad were hypothetical. They were thoughts for the future, far in the distance, but now they are real, tangible thoughts.
I think and plan and research about my study abroad program multiple times a day. I have a checklist of things I have to do before I leave. I have a flight booked and an arrival date and housing plans set. Just like that, the years of hypothetical planning have disappeared. Instead of thinking about things that could happen, I’m now planning for things that will happen. If I’m being honest, that’s a terrifying realization, but the good kind of terrifying. The kind that makes you nervous with butterflies in your stomach, but giddy with excitement at the same time.
So, here’s the things I will be doing: I’ll be studying in Aarhus, Denmark, where I’ll live for six months. I will leave near the end of January and stay until late June. I will probably cry when I say goodbye to my family and my pets. I will nervously take my first steps onto the plane that will fly me across the ocean. I will struggle and have doubts and get stressed, but I will learn and grow and experience things I’ve never even imagined. I will get to tell my stories about my time abroad for the rest of my life. I will never regret the amount of time and planning and money I’ve put into my study-abroad experience. I will encourage anyone and everyone I know to travel and learn about life in different countries.
I’ve seen how travel can change a person, because I am that person. I know that it can open one’s mind to concepts and cultures and lifestyles that were once so distant to them. I see how people’s mindsets can change once they engage with people from another country, once they put themselves in situations where they allow themselves to learn from others. It can be very easy to stay in your own bubble and forget the rest of the world exists, but taking a chance, stepping out of your comfort zone and doing things that you wouldn’t normally do is so rewarding. It’s one of the reasons I feel so drawn to traveling and why I’m taking this opportunity to better myself through studying abroad.
I plan to blog about my time abroad as a way to track my experiences. I’m excited to see what I learn and how my perceptions change during my stay in Denmark, and I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned and apply it to my life in the U.S. when I return.