Studying abroad really changes people

Photo by Elliott Brockelbank

When Delta flight 9 landed in Atlanta, it was a short taxi before we were parked at the international terminal and my study abroad for the summer in Oxford officially ended. The homesickness set in about two weeks before actually leaving.

As each day got closer to our immanate departure, I became more and more relieved to be going home. Finally when the day came, I was just ready to go. Our flight was delayed by maybe an hour, but other than that, it was just nine hours till I was back in the land of queso and air conditioning.

After the usual headache of Atlanta customs, I picked up my bag and ran to see my parents for the first time in months. My first meal back in America was the Quesarito from Taco Bell—a moment of pure bliss I will never forget.

My phone was back to unlimited data; I could check in with social media whenever I pleased.When we got home, my dogs ran outside of the house and were so excited to see me that they actually cried. There was legitimate food in the refrigerator (which I didn’t have to pay for with my own money!).

I lasted till 9pm before my body succumbed to the effects of jet lag, at which point I drowsily, yet happily, sauntered up to meet my familiar bed. My head hit the pillow and the next fourteen hours were a blur, but when I woke up, I felt different.

My parents had left for work, my dogs were napping at the front of my bed, the sun was shinning, and everything seemed, as it had been right before I embarked on my adventures. Except nothing was.

I went to get my cup of coffee and hurriedly checked Facebook. My new friends (shout out to Group 1 ,Group Fun) miraculously made it to midnight. I was tagged in a stream of pictures from the last few days of the trip. And all of a sudden, I was going through withdrawal.

I wasn’t with 150 other Tech students in Europe. I wasn’t seeing and hearing about everyone’s days and the plans for going to the pub for the night. I had stopped stressing over how outrageously expensive British products were. Worst of all, I actually missed my group.

From the first class to now, I would never have predicted both the changes in myself and the changes within our group that made us go from an awkward cluster of people to being a tight-knit group of people. If this is what happens when you study abroad, everyone should.

Studying abroad has taught me a lot of things. Some rudementary: trying to speak another person’s language goes a long way, our generation has an extreme addiction to our phones (understatement), being disconnected for a little doesn’t actually kill you (the horror!), there are other options aside from Starbucks, a good filter can make any ordinary scene look amazing, waiting last minute to buy your tickets for events really isn’t the greatest option, and southern hosptiality shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Then the crazier ones, such as Italians can somehow wear leather suites in the midst of July heat,  eating pasta for the rest of your life gets old in two weeks, getting outside of your comfort zone only can only expand your comfort zone (or at the very least , reinforce it), you should really check your directions twice so you don’t walk outside of a city…the list really is endless.

Greatest of all though is that people can surprise you, and that includes yourself. Before this trip, I would say I was very introverted. I could easily converse with other people, but I needed to have my own time. After this, I’ve realized that sometimes, it can be really fun to have a group of people around.

We all make judgments: for better, for worse, at home or on this campus. There are stereotypes about the people in different organizations and about individuals in general. But the best feeling comes in seeing a person completely obliterate that stereotype.

Studying abroad gains you new friends and experiences of a lifetime. It grounds you in this world and makes you appreciate all of the luxuries of America and really breaths life into the ultimate cliche that there is no place like home. You get a nice break away from Tech, and ultimately, I hope you will come to appreciate Tech all the more, after studying in a college/colleges from another country.

You should study abroad because this is an optimal time in your life. You’re young and in good health.

You should study abroad, not only as a nice break away from Tech, and not only to get the experience of a lifetime, but for nothing more than the most fundamental reasoning that it will challenge the very fabric of how you perceive other people and cultures.