Study Abroad: Unexpected

What is study abroad? If you google study abroad you will get this definition "the act of a student pursuing educational opportunities in a country other than one's own." Is that really all study abroad is, educational opportunities?

Last year I went to Florence, Italy and I learned more in one month than I had learned in four years at university. I am one of many students that stayed close to home to go to Kent State University. I am one of many students who was stuck close to home. I was happy to have my parents close by but I also wanted nothing more than to get away.

No one has to tell me what it’s like to feel out of place. To feel your entire life like you were on the wrong page. Most of you reading this don’t need to be told that either. Most of you probably think feeling out of place is a condition of life, I thought so too. I thought I would spend the rest of my life with that feeling. You may think that too. Now, I still feel out of place in America. I feel like a bird who was told not to fly.

When I left the country I was scared. I thought my condition would follow me, but it didn’t. I wasn’t followed by my fears or my imperfections. It took me one hour to find a home in Florence, Italy. Two feet on the lovely soil that is Europe and I didn’t feel out of place. People thought I was normal and honestly kind of cool. When I shared my opinions I found people agreeing. I saw that I was on the same page and it changed my life.

I don’t need to tell you that Florence is beautiful and amazing. I don’t need to tell you that world is full of amazing opportunities that you just have take. I do think I may need to tell you that just because you were born one place doesn’t mean you belong there. In one month in Florence I became a better version of me. I am more confident, stronger, and more intelligent.

Finally, I figured out that the difference between here and there isn’t just language,
it’s everything.

As a little kid we all dreamed of going to Hogwarts, Narnia, or some other mystical land and I promise you that Europe is better. The world right in front of you is better. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, leaving home will always be hard even if you don’t feel like you’re at home. Maybe Europe isn’t the place for you, maybe you belong in Africa, Australia, or Spain. No matter where you belong, even if you belong right here, you will learn a lot when you leave. Studying abroad isn’t just something to check off a list or that will increase your hireability. This summer I spent three months in Dresden and I may have found my forever home. I thought I would hate Germany and my only reason for going was because they had a program I needed. The world will surprise you. Never would I have ever thought I would be planning to move across an ocean for three years to study literature and culture. Never would I have ever believed you if you told me five years ago I would have found a place that felt so much like home I cried every day for a month after I left. I wouldn’t have believed you because I didn’t know then what I know now. My only advice for you is to get on the plane. Go to a place you think you’re going to hate. Go see the world and disprove all the stereotypes you have ever learned. To me study abroad is long walks by the Elbe, dancing in palazzos, singing in the rain, meeting my best friends, falling in love with myself, and so much more.

So, maybe it’s time you go and tell us, what does study abroad means to you?