Like any time you enter into something new, there are challenges.
If you’re anything like me, some of the biggest challenges that exist are in your own head. When I heard that I would need to study abroad in order to graduate with a degree in international studies, my first reaction was excitement… followed by some fear and anxiety about how that would happen. I believe it is that very sense of doubt that keeps many students from every studying abroad during their college career. Students doubt that they can adapt to a new and different culture; they doubt they’ll find interesting classes abroad that will aptly transfer for college credit; and, most of all, students doubt that they can afford a study abroad experience.
Personally, this last doubt was a major inhibition. After some calculations, I discovered that my 10-week-long trip cost little more than a semester of classes and rent. Finding many scholarships available through the API program or through outside sources, I discovered that, with some extra hours at work over the next year, I too could afford a study abroad experience. This isn’t to say that it’s always easy to save the money for study abroad, but it is very possible with hard work.
Another challenge that often inhibits students’ study abroad experience is the fear and uncertainty that comes with being in a completely new place.
While these fears are based on very real challenges (living abroad, even for a few months is not easy), the experience enables students to learn and live in a new way and open the doors to a new way of seeing the world. Living in a country with a language different than one’s native tongue can be challenging in practical and emotional ways. It is important to challenge oneself to venture out and meet people, even (like me) if it is in broken Spanish. From my own experience, it is amazing how emotionally people feel connected to you if you just try to speak their language.
From a small town, coming to college at Texas A&M opened my eyes to a broad and diverse world, right there in Texas. Learning the kind of diverse people that were present in my home state, I became inspired to see more of the world and broaden my horizons further. It is hard to say goodbye to family and friends in the states for so long, but I am confident of the rewarding experience that is sure to follow. That is why, as I sit at the airport terminal waiting for my flight to Chile, I am nervous, but also excited to see what is in store during my experience studying abroad and encourage others to pursue similar experiences.