Uninhibited Exploration: A Semester Abroad

Emily Ampel | Student, ’15

Before last winter, I had never owned a passport.  Now my passport is filled with stamps from the opposite side of the globe. I have scuba-dived at the Great Barrier Reef, cuddled with koalas, fed wild dolphins, made new kangaroo friends, snorkeled around a ship wreck, road-tripped along the great Ocean Road, visited the Sydney Opera House for the Vivid light show, played with children in a Fijian village, drank from a coconut that was fresh from the tree, skydived in New Zealand, and hiked the picturesque mountains of Lord of the Rings’ Middle Earth.

Studying abroad was a transformative experience for me. My months abroad helped me to mature into a more confident and independent version of myself.  Being in a foreign country encouraged me to examine my own culture through a different lens,  and living with students from around the globe gave me a much more worldly perspective.  I look at the world as a much smaller place now, but also with a new sense of adventure and eagerness to live my life to the fullest.

While my normal support system was on the opposite side of the globe, I was responsible for budgeting, making big decisions, and caring for myself.  It was the first time in my life that I was truly independent, and though it was intimidating at first, I learned to love the challenge and sense of accomplishment.  Knowing that I can take care of myself, and overcoming the challenges of being so far away from home has given me a new sense of confidence.

Living abroad also gave me the opportunity to see the United States from an outsider’s perspective.  It made me appreciate how very blessed I am, but also gave me cause to question things about our country that I had never given too much thought before.  It was very eye-opening to become more aware of how people from other countries view the United States.

As an international student, I met students from all over the world.  It was so interesting to learn about and partake in the traditions of so many different cultures.  However, what resonated most from my exposure to people from so many different backgrounds was not the differences, but the similarities.  I was struck by how much I had in common with my peers from South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.  We all have similar goals and desires, we all missed our respective homes, and we were all there to have a good time and explore new adventures.

I am not the same person I was when I left, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Choosing to study abroad was the best decision I have ever made, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.


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