A Reflection On My Semester Abroad
By: Jessica Martin, SDSU Chapter Member
I never realized how fast 5 months could pass until I embarked on my journey to spend a semester abroad. As a freshman, I knew that I wanted to study abroad and even though I found a semester to be completely intimidating, I found it very intriguing. The opportunity to spend those months going on weekend trips and making friends across the world had a big pull, but I never thought that I would find the courage to actually pursue it. I thought that I, someone who admittedly struggles with big changes, couldn’t possibly handle moving to a different country when I hadn’t stepped out of the United States in my life. However, despite all my doubts I started to plan a semester-long journey to the UK. I found a university in Leeds, England that offered classes that I could transfer back for kinesiology credit, and in October I got my acceptance letter. I don’t think that I had ever been so scared or so happy as in that instant, and looking back now I am so incredibly happy that I found it in myself to be brave and take the leap of faith.
Upon my arrival in January after moving into my flat, there was a deep feeling of loneliness. It was like moving into the dorms again, but this time there was no roommate to bounce off of, only flatmates living in other rooms that I had yet to see. I was worried that I was going to spend my time in another country alone, but that quickly changed when I went to the international orientation. There, I met the 10 people who would quickly become my travel companions and family in Leeds who disproved the inherent fear of being alone almost instantly.
In the UK, the educational system is very different. A full load is 3 courses, and each course has 3 hours of class a week, 1-2 assignments (including the final) and because of this I only had full days of classes on Monday and Tuesday and during mornings on Wednesday and Thursday. Due to this, I had a very large portion of my time to dedicate to exploring with my newfound friends and experiencing the local, and later international, culture.
I cannot emphasize how much I have loved living in Leeds, but there isn’t much to see that is terribly exciting. One of the biggest things that I got out of my experience was the ability to hop on a plane to a different country, in some cases with the price as low as $100 for a return trip. Of course, there were definitely flights that were more expensive and I easily spent thousands out of my savings, but there is nothing like traveling as an international student at 21. My weekends and breaks were spotted with early trains and planes to catch. I was still furthering my college education, was relatively unencumbered by responsibility and a family, and if I didn’t get the best sleep because a roommate in a hostel was being too loud at night I’m still young enough to bounce back.
Now, all my travels are done and nearly all of my friends have left. I’m sitting in a half-packed room wondering where the time could have gone. But when I fly home in 2 days, I can say that I have friends to visit around the world and that I have been lucky enough to experience 14 new countries in 5 months. I cannot recommend studying abroad enough, whether it be for a semester or for a couple weeks. If you are sitting on the fence about whether to apply, do it. It can be a terrifying thought, but it is infinitely worth it. An opportunity to explore the world is priceless, don’t let it pass you by.