Study Abroad Essay Competition 2013 Having never lived away from home, I was literally throwing myself into the deep end by travelling 5,000 miles to study in California. It was the best experience of my life so far and I know it will be one that I will never forget. As I was on my way to my accommodation it felt so surreal, I was in California, a place where many people dream of visiting. I knew from as soon as landed that id be learning and experiencing hundreds of things over the next few months.
The university offered a great number of extra curricular activities to join due to the weather being great all year round. I was lucky enough to join the surfing society. Being part of this society introduced me to so many more local students as well as foreign students studying abroad wanting to surf. We had several beach days throughout the semester as well as other planned events. On the beach days, I had a friend who taught me and several other students how to surf, as we were all beginners. Progressively, throughout the semester I was able to finally stand on the board and catch some waves. Surfing is much harder than it looks, possibly because the surfers we see make it look so simple and easy. However, the balance and technique necessary comes with much practice but as with anything, if you have the determination and put the time in, then you can accomplish anything. Learning how to surf has really been a dream come true, if I hadn’t taken this opportunity to study abroad in California then I don’t know when I would’ve ever learned to surf for such a long period of time.
Not only is the weather in California really nice, but also the people in California are even nicer. Everywhere I used to go, either to buy something or just look around a shop I was always asked how my day was going and engaged into simple yet delightful conversation. This didn’t happen just once or twice, it happened almost every single day whilst I was there. At first, it was something completely new to me because here in England a lot of people just keep themselves to themselves especially when on their way to university or work. In California, the situation is completely different. I found myself talking to strangers on the bus when on my out to university or elsewhere, and some even begin to confide problems they’ve had during that particular day. Being more open to talk to strangers is something I have brought back with me to England. I’m a lot more confident in starting the conversation and asking how someone is even though I haven’t met them before in my life. I know that this in particular quality that I have developed will not only benefit me in my day to day life, but it will also be of huge help in any interviews that I will have in the future. It will allow me to be more open about my experiences as well as more confident when answering the interviewers questions.
As well as being a student in a new university, I was doing this in a completely new country 5000 miles away from home. Adapting and being part of the Californian culture was nothing but easy. People there are so relaxed, it’s almost unbelievable unless you see and experience it yourself. The great weather plays a big part in the Californian culture with so many activities to do and the sun really does keep everyone in a great mood. Aside from the American culture in California, the Hispanic community and culture also plays a great part. I, myself, am a big eater and California is known to have great food so this was a great part of the new culture that I took advantage of. Just down the road from my apartment, there was a Mexican restaurant I used to eat at so much that I ended up making friends with the owner as well as the employees. Having so many different types of cuisines right on my doorstep meant that I could experience foods from all over the world whenever I wanted to. Through eating at a number of different cultured restaurants, I was able to befriend and converse with the workers and owners. I truly believe that this small talk with employees from all over the world has made me an even more culture conscious person and after this experience, I plan on furthering my knowledge of the different cultures around the world.
Studying abroad has provided me with hundreds of experiences, good or bad, these experiences have helped mold me into someone with a much better outlook on life. Living and experiencing the Californian culture has shown me just how different a whole life could be just depending on your location. I knew this from before just as something that I believed, but it’s completely different when you see this difference in lifestyle for yourself. I have proven to myself that I can live, to either work or travel, anywhere in the world by myself if I ever have to. Having that self-assurance in particular is priceless as I didn’t know how I would cope on my own before I went to study abroad.
My expectations of studying abroad were seriously exceeded, before I left England I knew that my outlook on many things would change but not like they did. Studying abroad and the effects it has on a person is like no other experience, being thrown into a new culture and completely new lifestyle affects you a lot. From interacting with the locals to meeting people I will stay friends with for the rest of my life. I was told that by the time I come back from California that I would be a completely different person. Spending just over 4 months in California, on my own, having to shop, cook, clean etc. for my self, I have come out of this experience a much more independent person. Not being able to always call my family and friends when I needed help finally taught me what the word “independent” really meant. I returned to England a much more positive and confident person, which in turn has resulted in me being a lot happier.
Studying abroad has been, by far, the best decision I can remember making. I feel that I am ready now, more than ever, to return to my final year and apply the knowledge and skillsets that I have developed over the past year. It’s difficult to explain why, but I feel like I have returned a lot more mature and focused on achieving what I want in my final year of university and after my degree. I can’t put a price on the experiences, friends and things that I have learned from studying abroad over the best four months of my life. If you ever get the chance to take a year out to study abroad, or to travel anywhere, then don’t even think twice about it! You must go ahead and do it because you will not regret it one bit.