Growing up, one of my biggest desires was to see the world.. to travel and go on adventures. I remember looking at National Geographic magazines and thinking, “I want to do that one day.” Then, when I got to college, I took several sociology and anthropology classes. Different cultures, different religions, different languages, different ways of life! It opened my mind and made me realize that I want, so desperately, to experience a culture other than my own.
But reading about Ireland in a book and actually going to the country are two completely different things. The moment the plane landed, my life changed forever, in the most wonderful of ways.
Alone, in this lovely, new country, I had to become independent. Every day, I looked in the mirror and saw a woman with more courage, more opinions, more confidence. I was forced to look at things differently, to remain open-minded while I became immersed in a new culture. It was all so overwhelmingly humbling. And! I also had the opportunity to travel to Paris, France and Rome, Italy! Three countries in four months!
Quite an eye-opener for a small-town girl from Pennsylvania! And so, as I stood, misty-eyed, on the edge of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, or on top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or in front of the Coliseum in Rome, I realized that my dream had become a reality.
It’s going to be hard going back home. I mean who really ever wants to end an exciting adventure? But, I realized, every day, no matter where you are, can be an adventure. You just need to have the right mind set. This experience made me want to meet new people, people different from myself. It made me want to learn about different countries and stay up to date on what is going on in the world. It gave me the confidence to put myself out there and dare to try new things. And now, with this new state of mind, traveling has become a passion. I know that if I truly do want to travel again, I’ll make it a priority and just go for it! Studying abroad gave me the courage to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.
I can never explain how grateful I am for this experience. It is something I would recommend to every student. I know what it’s like to be shy and timid. I know how hard it is to leave behind the comfort of home. I know we are taught to worry about responsibilities and money. But, if I can do this, so can you. It is so incredibly worth it.
Find somewhere that drives you mad with curiosity and interest and just do it!
Rachel Balon is the Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in Galway, Ireland. She is currently a senior at Keystone College.
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