Ah, yes! A bed that I don’t have to leave in a week. I have officially been in one place for more than a week now and after weeks of being on the move between cultures, climates, and airports (though I loved every second of it), I cannot tell you how happy I am to not have to live out of a suitcase.
It’s been a month since I’ve left Ireland and I can’t believe how much I miss it. It’s crazy to think about how much like home Ireland felt – all in less than 6 months! I genuinely miss the world’s friendliest people, the most delicious beer, and the beyond spectacular scenery.
Today, study abroad’s seem to be almost synonymous with college life. & why wouldn’t they be? You’re handed this amazing opportunity to live and study in a place completely outside your comfort zone in some of the coolest parts of the world, accustoming to a foreign life that you will soon fall in love with more than your life back home, and all while making memories that will last a lifetime. While hugely popular amongst American students, study abroad’s have yet to really gain popularity amongst international students. There’s always been a good amount of skepticality toward it.
As a frequent traveler and someone who has been fortunate to live in different countries growing up, getting my parents on board to the whole “it’s a way to experience a different culture” concept didn’t go very far. Their arguments:
#1 argument: you’re already ‘studying abroad’
#2 argument: how will this look on your resume and will it improve your chances of finding a job? If you’re a child of Asian parents, I’m sure you can relate to this – everything has to be somehow connected to eventually finding a job, always!
Eventually they agreed. I couldn’t be more grateful to them for making this happen because these past 6 months were truly one of the best of my life. Here’s why (besides the obvious travel advantages):
#1 from an academic standpoint
As an architecture student, nobody can deny that a semester traveling and studying Europe will expose you to the most breathtaking architecture steeped in hundreds of years of history. To visit at an age where I was able to appreciate the work, to see what I had only seen in pictures and learned about only in textbooks was incredible, and to live amongst it was even better.
However, it wasn’t the exposure to architecture that resonated with me the most. Rather, it was actually the difference in the way they taught in Ireland that I loved. Living globally for so many years, what I really missed was learning about countries other than America. Surprise surprise, non America is rarely mentioned in classes unless you’re taking a, um a Russian class? Though, I’ve no doubt Russian and American politics would be the center of that class! My favorite class in Ireland was an architectural culture + history class, because we learned about the most random things from all all over the world – from walkways in Singapore to river swims in Ireland to Chinese traditions. I felt like I had learned more about global cultures in that one class than my entire time in my American college life
#2 you learn to adapt
No doubt moving to the US was a massive feat in itself, requiring you to adapt to a completely new culture. So, perhaps the thought of having to do that again in another completely foreign culture doesn’t really appeal to you. I had to adapt to a new way of teaching (it was definitely more focused on independent study and final exams rather than continuous testing), to a completely different climate (constant rain and clouds!), and to generally a new way of life. It was scary, even for me who’s moved countries 3 times, but the feeling of conquering it is worth it. It gives you a sort of confidence; a confidence to explore new paths in the future, a confidence to step out of your comfort zone to achieve bigger and better things, and a confidence to just embrace change rather than fear it.
#3 sometimes its cheaper and more academically advantageous
Just a bureaucratical reason (and one to sure sway the parents), my semester in Ireland was actually a little more than half the price of a normal semester in Ireland. Depending on how your school does it, you could be saving some money going abroad. Also, the Irish credits transfer back to my school than normal so HOPEFULLY, I’ll get a few free credits. So win win! If planned in advance, study abroad really shouldn’t delay you (its a common misconception that it does). Just go talk to your academic advisor well in advance to ensure that you’re getting all your required credits.
#4 it definitely helps you in interviews
Not sure if the physical words of it will help you much in a resume. But I think interviews are where it really sets you apart. Not so much the fact that you studied abroad but in the way you talk about it – the way you exude passion when you’re talking about your study abroad experiences. Passion is one of the number one traits employers look for and when you’re blabbering on about how your new experiences have impacted certain decisions and your growth as an individual, employers love it! Anybody would love to listen to it.
#5 it helps you figure out what you want
I think this one was the most surprising to me. I had always known exactly what I wanted to do in life and where – an architectural designer in America. I never questioned it and never really gave any thought to another place or another career path – most people are often jealous of being able to do this! For some reason, I had never considered Europe as a viable option, and after this semester, I cannot understand why!
As an architecture student, my life was consumed with project deadline and late nights at studio. I think I just got so caught up in the intense rigor of studio that I never had a second to question why I was doing what I was doing or to just do anything other than architecture. Not only did studying in Europe allow me to fall in love with my major all over again, but it also gave me the chance to just live as a 20 something year old. As an international student, I think we become so engrossed in our college lives, trying to make our parents proud and make them feel like it was worth it to spend the $$$$ to send their kids abroad. You bust your brains studying for exams, spend all your free time racking up extra curricular’s to build up your resume, all while also trying to make some pocket money to just live. Finally when college is up and you think you’re done, you’re straight out into the real world where the rigor doesn’t really stop.
I absolutely love what I do and when I graduate, I really hope I make my parents proud.. I want to be successful designer who enjoys what she does and I’m sure I will be. But if I’ve learned anything this semester, it’s that when I’m older and looking back, I want more to remember of my 20s than just going to college and getting a job, and I will make sure it isn’t. Working in a job that I love will definitely be one of my highlights, but it will not be the only one. Perhaps, that involves straying away from my America plan a little, I’m not sure at this stage, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.
Sometimes, you just got to get yourself out of your comfort zone to see what you’re capable of. Living abroad (like in a foreign country where they don’t even speak English) at this age is a whole nother’ ball game compared to just traveling through it and it’s crazy how much the experience subconsciously impacts you. Taking the time to reflect on it and write this post makes me so nostalgic of it but I couldn’t be happier with the way I spent my time there and wouldn’t trade it for the world. So, don’t be skeptical, just go! You’ve got nothing to lose 🙂
your lost traveler,