The Study Abroad Scaries

Eureka at Guiness
Author: Eureka Embodo

Going abroad by yourself is daunting, even if it’s only for four months.

Before you leave, you are beyond excited about new experiences, new people, new adventures… Then you get there and realize that it’s gonna be WAY harder than you ever expected it to be.

That’s what happened to me when I went to the University of Hertfordshire in England. When I was picking a place to go to, I picked schools in the UK and Australia because I didn’t want to add a language barrier on top of the adversities I already figured I’d face. But I didn’t expect to hit the lowest point I’d ever hit.

When I got to Hatfield, I had no sheets, no towels, and no food. I didn’t know anyone other than two girls from VIU who were also there, but even then, I hadn’t met them yet. I didn’t know how to get to the grocery store, I was too nervous to talk to my flatmates, and I was trying to navigate all of this with a jetlagged brain that was delayed by 8 hours. I genuinely felt so, so defeated.

I’m a strong person who knows how to pick myself up when I’m down, but I thought those first few days really would get the best of me. But I took a breath, reminded myself that if I was brave enough to even get here then I was brave enough to get through it, and sucked it up.

Then, with some time, it started to get better.

With every week that passed, I learned to embrace my fears and do things despite being scared and anxious. I forced myself to leave my dorm and hang out with people I wouldn’t normally hang out with, go to places I didn’t think would be fun, eat food I didn’t think I’d like, and do things I originally thought were lame. Almost every single time, my expectations were shattered and I ended up really enjoying the experience.

Now, as I sit at my kitchen table in Nanaimo typing this out, I can’t help but wonder what my Exchange would’ve been like if I succumbed to my fear’s desire to be a hermit in my dorm. What would I have done, who would I have met?

Well, if I didn’t go out on a limb in an Instagram group chat and be the only one to reach out to two American guys I’d never met before wanting to go to London, then I wouldn’t have met half of the group I went to Greece with (who also kept me sane during it). And if I didn’t force myself to hang out with my flatmate who I stereotyped as a typical American sorority girl that I wouldn’t get along with, then I wouldn’t have met one of my best friends ever. If I didn’t force myself to message the cousin I’d never met to visit her in the Netherlands because I was scared of how awkward it would be without my mom, then I wouldn’t have met the person I now consider an older sister.

So, the lesson here? Feel the fear and do it anyway. Because you never know what or who you’re gonna get out of it, and you’ll probably end up thanking yourself when it’s all said and done.

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