So, surprise! I got my first tattoo. I got it about a week ago so it's not fully healed yet, but I couldn't wait to take photos and share. I've wanted to get Harry Potter's scar behind my ear for about two years now and it's about time I finally went through with it. I'm not really going to go in to why I got it, but I figured I'd talk about my time studying abroad since they both kind of coincide. Without further ado, here are some awesome quotes and my thoughts and advice about spending a semester abroad.
TLDR: Study abroad if you can. Travel has been talked about and recommended a million times and it's all true. Traveling is such a magical (see what I did there) experience that you can't get any other way. Go.
1. "She believed she could, so she did" R. S. Grey, Scoring WildThere are definitely a lot of things that can stand in the way of traveling and most of these reasons are legitimate, but a huge obstacle can be yourself. If you don't make traveling a priority then it's not going to happen. It takes a lot of work that you can't push to the side and do at the last minute. Fear is also a huge part. Fear can also be legitimate, but you could also be making it out to be way worse than it actually is (I did this anticipating the pain of my tattoo and I wanted to hit myself afterwards for being so scared.) Being fearful and nervous can help you realize that this is something important to seriously think about and to warn you of the risks, but it can't completely rule your life. This is true once you get there as well. Letting fear steer you through a new city or country isn't fun. If you don't believe you can get over the fear, you wont.
2. "Have fun, even if it's not the same kind of fun everyone else is having" C. S. Lewis
This quote can apply to pretty much any stage or situation in life, but I think it's particularly important when it comes to studying abroad. To do something you only think you should or anything you don't like is a huge waste of time and money. Particularly in big cities there's a push to find things that are unique and "unknown" but that doesn't mean you can't find the same joy seeing a tourist attraction for the first time. From the most common to the hipster-est of all hipster hang outs, try anything and everything you want to as long as you are having fun.
I figured this picture from the Travelers Pocket Reference, 1932, nicely summarized all that is possible when you travel. A semester is a long time, though it can feel pretty short, and you can learn a lot about yourself and the world around you when you spend one abroad. The thing is it doesn't magically happen because your feet touched soil outside of your home nation.
I conveniently saw this tweet when I was scrolling the other day and I'm so glad I get to share it because it takes a huge misconception about traveling/studying abroad and blows it up. Travel is awesome and we as human beings talk about it a lot, but because of that we have a lot of preconceived notions about how people change after we travel. The catch is you actually have to do something productive for those things to happen. For example if you want to "realize the limitations of your views" you need to go out and genuinely learn and experience different views of life. I think the two extremes exist; returning home less intelligent but self-satisfied because you've always been told simply going to another place makes you a worldly person and returning having learned more about the world and yourself. The thing is you have work towards that change for your travels to actually mean something close to all the wanderlust quotes that are plastered on so many landscape photos.
5. "I read; I travel; I become" Derek Walcott
I am so happy that I got the chance to have a semester abroad. My experience may have been a little different from other students since my school has campuses everywhere we went, but I enjoyed it and I'd love to travel more in the future. I found that when you travel you're really forced into this uncomfortable situation you can't really escape from, especially when you're in a country where you don't speak the language. So to counteract this you seek out things you like and are comfortable with. To me those things revealed what I value, or just simply enjoy, wherever I am in the world.
And when I got home I got a tattoo. Because I can, and it's a little piece of who I want to become.
P.S. This one works too: