"For me, studying abroad in London was like five famous movie quotes."
Last week, I asked my mom to write an article about what she learned studying abroad, and how it changed her life. The headline above is what she came back to me with.
At first I thought, "Really? Old movie quotes? What does that have to do with study abroad?"
But when I started reading my mom's article, I realized how well it captured not only her study abroad experience, but mine, too. If traveling abroad for the first time was (or is) completely out of your comfort zone, then maybe some of these will sound familiar.
The lessons my mom describes are not only universal but also timeless, which is why I decided to add my own photos (and my captions) throughout her stories. Other than the outdated movie quotes... it seems like the study abroad experience hasn't changed a bit.
"We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all."
-The Breakfast Club
Our apartment was like a bad sequel to the Breakfast Club. It featured me (the naïve princess), the pot head, the alcoholic, the jock, the thief, and the goth girl. My study abroad roommates were different than anyone I had ever met, and honestly I wasn't sure how to react at first.
When my roommates invited complete strangers (who were following some band called the Dead) to come live with us, I learned to stand up for myself. I discovered so much I didn't know about myself while living with them, and also got to know this crazy group. I quickly realized we had more in common than I ever would have thought.
Each new person I met through study abroad, I learned to look past the surface and find out what kind of human being they were, first. They were all human and all made mistakes, just like me.
I learned to be less judgmental.
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
When I was in college, I was constantly focused on “what am I missing”? I was never actually living in the moment, I just was waiting for the next big moment to find me.
It took me until the second half of my semester in London to realize that what I was missing was every opportunity around me. I finally took the time to go and enjoy the theater on my own, sit at high tea, window shop at Harrods, and take in the lively conversation going on at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.
My time there was slowly slipping away.
I learned to take full advantage of all of the opportunities in front of me.
"Houston, we have a problem."
What do you do when the German train conductor comes to stamp your passport in the middle of the night, and not only is it missing... but your license, your money, your credit cards (and anything that identifies you as a U.S. citizen) are all gone too?
Complete panic sets in. Your trip is ruined. Or is it?
You come up with a plan and you ride the German train back and forth across the country. You bathe in the sink, and live off of bread until you can figure it out. You adapt your plan.
As much as it sucked having everything stolen, I learned so much from the experience. I don’t think I would have it any other way.
I learned that I couldn’t change what happened, but I could change how I reacted to it.
"I see dead people."
-The Sixth Sense
I remember walking into Westminster Abbey and feeling like I had the breath knocked out of me.
I was a huge history buff and that day history came alive to me like it never had before. It made me feel small, and yet big at the same time. I was standing on top of hundreds of years of history. I was surrounded by Charles Dickens, Sir Isaac Newton, and countless kings and queens.
I had lived my whole life outside of Washington, D.C. and had never appreciated it. For some reason, that day made such an impact on me that now I go into every historical site with my eyes wide open. As another much more famous Marley said, “In this bright future you can not forget the past” (Bob Marley).
I learned to have a heart full of appreciation for every graveyard, ruin, or museum that I visit.
"There's no place like home."
-The Wizard of Oz
Don’t get me wrong. Living in London for 4 months was great, but I just realized I'm not a city person.
I realized I truly loved the slower pace of North Carolina. I loved American television. I loved that I lived somewhere I didn’t have to worry about bomb threats every day.
My time away taught me a deep appreciation for so many things about my country, my family, and my friends that I had always taken for granted.
I learned how to be grateful for what I have here.
And for that, I am forever thankful.
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