Mika Richards, Alumni Insider
1. What was the best part about studying abroad?
Studying abroad was, hands down, the best decision that I have made. The best part about studying abroad was discovering the similarities and differences between my home country and my study abroad country. Studying abroad can be daunting, to say the least. You are a complete foreigner. There are new modes of transportation, a new language, and even different cultural rules to follow, such as public behavior and dress codes. To make your experience the best possible, do research on the country, and when you arrive, you must dive in head first into the culture. Remind yourself that just because this new culture is different from your own, it doesn't mean that it is bad, but simply different. While it is easy to stay with people from your culture, such as other students you study abroad with, you should also explore (while taking safety precautions) the country as it really is. If you don't feel comfortable exploring your new city alone, you can take another student, but decide that it would be an opportunity to learn the language. For example, you could ask a passerby for directions or order food in the country's language. Most importantly, enjoy the ride.
2. How has your study abroad experience impacted your life?
Studying abroad has assisted me in addressing personal battles. I have dealt with Generalized Anxiety Disorder since I was eight years old. In unfamiliar environments, I would have panic attacks, which prevented me from doing things that I desperately wanted to do, such as travelling. Studying abroad was a huge step for me, as I was travelling to an extremely unknown territory. For what I was able to prepare myself for, I did, and for what I couldn't, I told myself that I had a decision to make. Should I live my life based on my fears, or should I choose my own path? When I arrived, I chose to do what scared me the most. I made the choice to get completely lost in Paris, which is something that I never dared to do before. I was able to figure out how to navigate the metro and eventually made my way back to my apartment. After I exposed myself to this situation, I was able to trust myself, and I had gained a lot of confidence. To this day, I have yet to feel anxious, so I will forever be grateful for my study abroad experience. Travelling had always been something I aimed to accomplish, and thanks to the success I've experienced in France, I’m planning other trips to backpack around Europe. Studying abroad has sparked my interest in cultural and interpersonal differences, which is positive because it gave me more motivation to study and understand my major (Communications). Before studying abroad, I didn't especially have a plan after graduation, however, I decided that I would love to work for a study abroad organization. I want to help others experience diversity, in hopes of reducing Mean World Syndrome, or assuming the world and the unknown are always dangerous.