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As I arrive at the midway point in my second study-abroad semester, I can’t help but look back on my first-year semester in London. It’s difficult to avoid comparing one experience to another. Each time you go abroad, you’re bound to see things in a new way. A second or third time studying abroad (at Arcadia, a lot of students do that) is significantly different than spending your first or second semester abroad.
A much more confident me, exploring Florence, Italy.
London was not only the most important experience I’ve had at Arcadia so far, but it was the most important time of my whole life. The person I was before I went abroad was drastically different than the one who returned, but this is being thrown into new focus by my time here in Italy.
Being at Arcadia makes us blind to the fact that studying abroad in your first year of college is a brave and, frankly, kind of crazy thing to do. I didn’t fully understand that until I got here and met juniors and seniors who are studying abroad for the first time. They were all floored to learn this was already my second time abroad. During the difficult transitional period in the first few weeks, several of my fellow students here at the Umbra Institute commented that I must have been brave to have gone abroad in my first semester.
At Arcadia, packing up and jetting off to a far corner of the globe is perfectly normal and doing it at 18 isn’t much of a feat. But as I tour around Italy and Europe for the second time, feeling ever more comfortable navigating the train system and cultural barriers, I realize just how gutsy I was at 18. I was nervous and scared and, at times, I really regretted my decision to come to London. There were definitely a few tearful nights and phone calls to my mom telling her I didn’t know what I was doing. But I always got through those nights. I learned how to live out of my element, pushing through the fear and anxiety inherent in every day in a foreign land. I felt like a little baby bird who had been unceremoniously shoved out of my nest.
So much has changed since FYSAE…including my fashion sense!
I think most of my study-abroad classmates were like that. Maybe it didn’t feel that way at the time, but we were so young. A year and a half has passed and I already feel like a completely different person.
While this semester isn’t easy by any means and new challenges, such as a language barrier and the struggle of living in a small city, have arisen, it has made me more appreciative of what I accomplished in my first year. I pushed open the door to the world for myself and now I’m stepping through it again.
As my mom told me to repeat to myself during every phone call that first semester: “I can do anything.”