Students Studying Abroad: My Study Abroad Stories

The first night that I arrived in Sunderland, England was a dreary one indeed. I walked off of the metro from Newcastle at about 10:30 pm their time. It was the last lag of a daunting 30 hour journey. I started that long day in Chicago, where I caught my first flight to Dublin. After a four hour layover I hopped on my next flight to Manchester. Then there was a three hour train ride, followed by an hour on the metro.

I was travelling with two other students studying abroad from my school, who would become very good friends of mine. When we stepped off of the platform, we expected to find some signs directing us to our University, or to the dorm sight, and we had maps on us just in case the signs were not there. The signs were definitely not there. We couldn’t even see street signs and we had no idea where to go.

So, we decided to go in the same direction as another young-looking lad with a large suitcase, assuming that he also was finding his way to the housing area with all of the rest of the students studying abroad and that he knew where he was going. We ended up walking several long blocks with multiple large suitcases in tow, only to find if we had walked just one block in the other direction, we would have been at our destination.

By the time I got to my dorm that night my brain was marinated in a pan of pessimism. I cried. I asked myself over and over again what in the world I was doing there and wondered how I would survive the next four months.

Well, I survived. Even more than that, I thrived.

The next morning I woke up and found that in the light of day, things were not so bad. The cloudy English charm got to me.

For our first meal I met up with the girls who I had been travelling with and another guy from our school who had arrived the day before and we walked around town until we stumbled into a small mom ‘n’ pop type establishment a little bit down the road. I decided to have their breakfast special: Baked beans, thick cut bacon, two eggs sunny-side up, steamed tomatoes and sausage links. I

know, I know. Baked beans for breakfast? But I decided that if I was going to go, I was going to go big. From then on, I happily embraced my experience abroad and it was a life-changing one.

I had twelve hours of class each week, and other than that, my time was my own. This was very unlike my schedule at home, where I had 20 hours of class, 35 hours of work and with a few extra large homework cherries on top. I  had time to write, read and exercise each day. I had time  to travel and walk around town with my friends and the other students studying abroad. I had time to dance to the German techno that was often playing in my kitchen.

By the time a few weeks passed by, I knew Sunderland backward and forward. I became a master of the English metro and train systems. I was saying, “Cheers” instead of “thank  you” on a daily basis.

By the end of my time there I was a better writer, I knew more languages and was more confident in myself than I had ever been. It was the first time I realized I could really do things on my own, and I could do them well.

My study abroad experience changed my life. There were definitely some moments that I wish were different (the 20 hour fog delay in Heathrow was not my favorite), but I would not trade that experience for anything.

Studying abroad is a great opportunity to learn about yourself – not just in the classroom, but from all the other students studying abroad as well. By removing yourself from a situation you are comfortable with, you allow yourself to grow, to learn and to understand more about yourself and the world than you ever had before.

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Amber Bray

Amber Bray

Amber Bray is a senior at North Central College studying journalism and graphic design. Apart from her classes Amber writes a relationship advice column, along with other pieces, for the North Central Chronicle. She also writes and designs for North Central’s online magazine, The Viewfinder. Amber is a trivia fanatic and in her free time she enjoys board games, reading and writing fiction, and spending time with friends and family.