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Never the Same

I have always heard people say, "after studying abroad, my life was never the same," or, "I'm a new person after studying broad," and I honestly thought they were just saying that to be dramatic, but I quickly leaned this is not the case.

I've been back in the states now for almost a month and in that time, I've realized that studying abroad truly did change my life. If I'm being honest, I could probably write for days about all the things that have changed about me, but to keep it short and sweet, I'll just share three.

 I saw the Caribbean for the first time!

1. My sense of independence

Before going abroad, I thought I knew what it was like to be independent. I lived in an apartment, bought my own groceries and gas, had a job, went to class, and did what had to be done without being asked. Basically, I very rarely asked for help unless I really needed it. Though I did most things on my own at home, I always had my family and friends right down the road in case I needed a pep talk or a home cooked meal. After a few weeks in San Jose, I quickly realized that I was very much on my own.

Now don't get me wrong, I had my roommate and friends, CEA staff, and my host family, but I had to grow up a little and take on responsibilities myself. The familiarizes of home were absent and it really made me notice just how much I was "adult-ing." I really realized how much more independent I had become when I rode the bus by myself, navigated all over downtown, bought groceries, meal prepped for the week, and budgeted. You'll most likely be with your new friends most of the time, but you'll definitely feel that sense of independence.

2. New Friends

When you study abroad, you're going to meet a ton of new people. Some of those people might just become lifelong friends. When I look for friends or people to hang out with, I would always try to find like-minded people; I never really hung out with people that were too different from me before going abroad. While in San Jose, I made a really good group of friends and the coolest part was that we were all unique and different. We were all from different backgrounds, some of us from different states, all of us had new perspectives to share. Sometimes it was tough to adjust to different personalities, but it was totally worth it. I learned so much from the friends I made while abroad, each of them have changed my life for the better.

 My roommate and I, who are both from Tennessee,
and our new Wisconsin friends!
 
 Hearing no evil, seeing no evil,
speaking no evil at Poas Volcano!
 
 Posing with the art!

3. My confidence

I think everyone will experience a confidence boost while abroad. I've never been the most confident person, but while studying abroad, I realized I'm a lot stronger than I thought I was. These moments of confidence would overwhelm me after I would speak and understand Spanish with a local, negotiate produce prices at the market, go anywhere around town by myself and know where I was going, when I would succeed in my schoolwork. Sometimes you'll get confused or frustrated if your Spanish isn't too hot one day, or you might have a hard presentation due, but I promise you, it's so rewarding when you work through these things and prove to yourself that you can, in fact, do it. After exploring new territory and speaking another language, coming back to the states will be a piece of cake because you'll know just how capable you are to achieve anything you set out to do!

 Enjoying La Fortuna waterfall after
walking down hundreds of steps!

I highly recommend studying abroad! It might be nerve-wracking at first, but I can guarantee you won't regret it! You'll gain a new sense of independence, meet new friends, and find the confidence that has always been inside you. Looking back, I can't believe half the things I accomplished, but I am immensely grateful that I had this opportunity.
 Almost everyone in our CEA program
(a.k.a - the best program group ever!)

Kendall McKee is the Spring 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in San Jose, Costa Rica. She is currently a Junior at the University of Memphis.

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