An experience to remember: Why one student will never forget studying abroad

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An experience to remember: Why one student will never forget studying abroad

Ryan Dawson

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Studying abroad is one of the most rewarding experiences a student can have. Being in a new country opens your eyes and expands your view of the world around you. Often the shock of being in a new culture far away from home has kind of a sobering effect. You see things more clearly, you gain a better understanding of the world, and you will often not have the same perspective about life in general.

Studying abroad is not all sunshine and daisies, though. As I found out in my study abroad experience, things can go horribly wrong. While studying at Bond University on the Gold Coast of Australia, I sustained a major injury to my arm, which resulted in surgery and countless hospital visits. While my fellow students were soaking up the rays on the many beaches in close proximity, I was at the hospital explaining to the staff that, “yes, in fact I was an American,” and, “yes, I do understand my accent is funny… mate.” After causing what my family called “my international incident,” I was happy to board a plane home. But, as with any good story, it did not end so simply. On my connecting flight to Sydney, I suffered a seizure and was hospitalized for the night. For me, the hospital was becoming a second home and on some level, I did not care. I was not dead, so ended up repeating my study abroad mantra, “Just roll with the punches. Just get home.”

While my experience abroad was extremely stressful, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. By the end of my trip, I was elated to be home in America, and I learned a lot about myself. While the latter is true of any study abroad-er, re-assimilating back into the American lifestyle can seem overwhelming. Any quick Google search about study abroad will always contain a section regarding “re-entry.” In loose terms, re-entry is the mental hurdle students returning home from study abroad face. Re-entry for me felt as if  I had been transported back into a forgotten dream; everything seemed foggy and strange.

This feeling quickly faded for me once school started; my mind has been too busy to focus on anything but school. Some students’ emotions can range from depression to anxiety. Returning home is hard for anyone; things change, people change, life moves on. So, next time you hear one of your friends babbling on about, “how amazing the Louvre was”, or “how fantastic the beaches were in Australia”, do not be so quick to tune them out. It may seem like we talk non-stop about our adventures, or constantly start saying, “that reminds of this time in (insert study abroad location,)” just remember students are returning with a feeling of loss. Most of us fell in love with our study abroad programs, and wish we could go back. All hope is not lost for returning students, as the feeling eventually goes away.

I will close with this: even though my study abroad experience was less than ideal, I would not change anything. I would go back to Australia and shatter my elbow every time if I had the choice. The friends I made, the places I went (however few), will stay with me forever. If you have the opportunity to go abroad, and you are on the fence about it, set up a meeting with the study abroad office. Get an information packet, go to a meeting, and talk with someone who has been abroad. You could have a life changing experience, and that is coming from the guy who shattered his elbow and had a seizure while studying abroad.

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