by Aliya Machat, Arizona State University, USA
Since college, I had always wanted to study abroad. I heard a lot about the opportunity from teachers and students explaining it was life-changing and unforgettable. However, I never really knew what they meant. How could studying in another country really be so unforgettable? Of course, I knew I would become more independent and gain a greater understanding of the world. But how could this be the best experience of my life?
After studying at Arizona State University (US) for 6 months I now understand what they all meant. Studying abroad challenges you and widens your cultural understanding.
One part of studying abroad that is often overlooked is how challenging it can be. Of course, I want to write about all the sunshine and rainbows of studying abroad but it’s not always like that and I’m sure you have probably heard it all before. Sometimes it can be lonely and sometimes you can feel out of place. After all, you are in a foreign country, and you don’t have your loved ones around you. But I would say that that’s what makes studying abroad so life-changing. Knowing that you were able to do that all by yourself is inspiring and greatly increases your confidence. The moment when I realised what I had accomplished was my birthday. Before my birthday, I was nervous that I wouldn’t have a good day, that maybe no one would celebrate it with me or I would feel lonely. However, I was greatly wrong. I threw a party at my house, and everyone showed up. All the friends I had made from the international group, my classes and my clubs came. My whole house was filled with all the people I had met in America. These people were not merely just friends I had made but they were people I shared a huge bond and connection with. Something I didn’t think was possible in such a short amount of time. At this moment I realised how well I had adjusted to living in a new country. Although studying abroad is challenging in the end it is worth it because you come out as a resilient, confident, and independent individual.
Furthermore, what is also neglected about studying abroad is how exposed you will be to other cultures. You will probably already know that you will learn about the culture of where you’re living but you will also learn a lot about other cultures from around the world. Most of the people I met on my exchange were from the international group, other internationals who were studying abroad. I met people from South Korea, Canada, the Czech Republic and many more places. Meeting people who lived from different countries really opened my mind to how big the world is and how different their cultures can be. For example, I met a girl from South Korea, and she taught me a lot about her culture specifically how everyone in the entire country gets one year older at the same time every year. Additionally, most of my friends were actually Canadian and I can say that the stereotype is true. Canadians are really nice! Finally, I met two girls from the Czech Republic who became some of my closest friends. I had never met anyone from the Czech Republic before, so I was always really intrigued by their culture. Near Easter time they told me about their rather unusual tradition. Boys get willow branches and decorate them with ribbons to whip girls with to encourage luck and fertility. Meeting people from different parts of the world really did widen my cultural understanding and I am now more appreciative of other ways of life.
As cliché as it sounds studying abroad is a life-changing experience and if you’re thinking about doing it I would 100% recommend it!