Study abroad for me meant going abroad, abroad. That's right. Twice. I was already studying abroad by being in Boston and I was sure, absolutely, 100 percent positive, that I wouldn't go abroad once I came to Brandeis. Yet I did, and not only did I go for one semester like most students do, I went for a whole year.
To be honest, I'm not sure what made me change my mind so drastically but in some ways, I'm really glad that I did. Yes, going to another continent was hard, the experience was not at all what I expected and there were moments when I really, really wanted to go home and just quit. But I also had really wonderful experiences, met interesting people and learned much more than I though I would, not only about art history and psychology, but also about myself.
And, even though my decision to go was impulsive while most of my friends had been counting on it for years, after studying abroad we all came to the same conclusion: you will never regret going, but you might regret it if you don't.
I know it sounds scary to go somewhere new and unfamiliar, especially since it's not a quick family trip that you need to endure for just a couple of days, but doing challenging things can often be very rewarding. It's fun to eat strange things, -- I ate a toad in the hole once and it tasted as weird as it sounds, -- to learn about other cultures, to make new friends and to travel the world.
Of course, the counterpart to all that fun is giving up a year or a semester's worth of your already established and familiar college experience, to miss out on events, parties and friends' lives and to feel generally disconnected from people on the other side of the world. But it's really more like one big, all-encompassing pause. The friends you have are not going anywhere, and neither are you (well, not after those six months). In fact, things go back to normal surprisingly quickly upon returning, even for me, and I was gone for a full year.
Ultimately, going abroad is just like taking a huge leap of faith. It won't be anything like you picture in your head, it will be challenging and at times frustrating, but it will also exceed your expectations in unexpected ways, and its not something you will be able to do after you graduate.
I speak from experience when I say my time abroad wasn't perfect. Those who were with me at the time can testify to this, and yet, even after all the ups and downs, all the challenges and the difficult times, there is nothing I would want to change. Not what I did, what I saw, how I felt or who I met. Eventually the bad days became lessons, the hard ones challenges successfully completed and the happy, laugh-filled days, -- well, those I will never forget.