(photo by: soucyagency.com)
One of my favorite internet pastimes is reading study abroad blogs. Although the posts are often well written, I’m also often disappointed. What’s uncertain to me is if I’m disappointed in other students’ happy and picture perfect (literally) study abroads or if I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to have that when I was in Paris. A particular post on tumblr was especially emotionally rousing for me yesterday. It started out with a student admitting that she finds herself crying ever since she returned from her study abroad a few months ago. Intrigued, I read on. This student then explains that she is having great difficulty re-adapting to her American life and loved ones because she can’t stop thinking about her host country. After that post, I read at least 20 other similar posts for varying countries and stay lengths. The consensus among the study abroad blogs on tumblr is that students were happy in their study abroad; so happy that they were depressed to come home!
(photo by: www.movoto.com)
I then started thinking (always a dangerous thing) that maybe it is just me. Maybe it is just Andrea who had a really bad first semester abroad; whose dreams weren’t able to be fulfilled like these other students’; who had an overall negative experience with my host family; who had trouble assimilating and being accepted into French culture; who didn’t understand a word that was being said in my French university classroom; whose French level was so below par she couldn’t adequately express herself; who had to re-learn everything; who had to change for this experience; who wished to be with the person I loved instead of spending 10 months at 6,000 miles away; who wished a different life in Paris than what I was living; who longed to make a friend but didn’t know how. Reading these happy go-getter blogs made me feel alone exactly how I felt when I was in Paris. I fail to understand why my dreams couldn’t come true but other students’ have. Maybe I wasn’t dreaming the right dreams or maybe I wasn’t the right type of person for studying abroad in Paris.
I recognize that I’m not the majority of study abroad students but I may be just like you- the introvert type who wants to challenge his/herself and experience life but who is also scared to do just that. For us, studying abroad is not just an opportunity; it is the Olympic games of mental and emotional strength, flexibility, adaptability. We may not be the ideal candidates for studying abroad but we will benefit most and take away more from this experience than anyone else. Why? Because we have to push ourselves more; have to challenge ourselves more; have to battle with ourselves everyday to immerse into this experience. We aren’t going to be the type of student who easily adapts into the host culture or who will embrace Paris so much that we’ll forget our roots. In that sense we are not ideal for studying abroad. You will not have the picture perfect study abroad experience. But just because we aren’t the ideal type of person to study abroad doesn’t mean that we’re not the right type of person. So what makes the right type of person? Any student who will gain career and life skills from this experience. As an introvert you will benefit from this experience personally far long after you’ve studied abroad. A study abroad for us is not just a time to live abroad; it’s a time to sow the seeds for our future selves. So go ahead and sign up for that Paris study abroad- you are the right type of person!