My name is Haley Weiss, and I am a Senior at Dickinson College with a Major in English, and a double Minor in Film Studies and Creative Writing. I compete on the Dickinson College Equestrian Team and play viola in the College/Community Orchestra. I have previously studied abroad for a year in England, and I hope to pursue a career in Creative Writing or Film.
Step One: Apply
Each year in college I am surprised by the amount of people who choose to study abroad, but what surprises me even more is the amount of people who do not go after the opportunity. I understand that there are many different scenarios, which can inhibit someone’s decision to go abroad. However, if you are on the fence about going abroad, simply apply. College may be the only time that presents you with such a transformative opportunity¬¬––an opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture, and takeaway an experience that will ultimately shape your future self.
Step Two: Don’t Forget to Say Goodbye
Prior to departing from your home, do not forget to say goodbye to family and friends. Although it is a depressing speculation, a lot can happen in a few months to a year. People you care about may move away, become sick or pass away. After I came back from studying abroad in England for the year, my grandfather, who was previously in good health, became sick and passed away within a month of my return. This harsh reality made me aware of just how much can happen in a year as well as the importance of saying goodbye.
Step Three: Be Uncomfortable
Although this step sounds counterintuitive, it will enable you to achieve a transformative abroad experience. Within the first few weeks of being abroad, you will probably feel alienated from your former routine and relationships. Do not panic. This feeling of otherness simply means that you are being challenged by your surroundings. Embrace this challenge, and allow yourself to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. As a person who likes routine, I felt completely disoriented when I first arrived in England. I was thrown into a new environment with a foreign academic and social culture. However, after a few months I became comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. I knew that the feeling of alienation would eventually disappear, but I would have to experience stages of “otherness” before things could feel normal. Then one afternoon while I was riding the Tube, I realized that the unordinary had become ordinary––I no longer felt like the “other” within English society. I automatically knew English terminology, I felt comfortable with the academic culture, and I knew how to navigate and seamlessly blend into the hustle of London. Part of the reward of studying abroad is recognizing when the uncomfortable becomes comfortable––in this moment you will recognize your individual transformation.
Step Four: Step Away From Yourself
Once you recognize that the uncomfortable has become comfortable, you will develop a routine with new relationships, desires and challenges. Now is the time to step away from yourself. Really look at yourself and appreciate the transformation. Look back on the past to remind yourself of just how far you have come. Revel in your transformation, but make sure the person you have become does not look down upon your past self. Finally, before returning home make sure to pack up your individual, transformative experience and carry it with you into the future.