As Hilltoppers, we pride ourselves on being a part of a “leading American university with international reach.” And that pride is perhaps never more on display than during the biannual study abroad fair. With pamphlets filled with potential adventures and pictures displayed of gorgeous views, it’s not hard to get in the study abroad spirit.
To fuel that buzz, your friendly Talisman adventurer (aka me) has put together a very on-theme list of some of the things you take home from a study abroad trip. (And no, it’s not just smuggled Cadbury chocolate.)
✓ An appreciation for clean clothes (and your ability to stand the dirty ones for longer than you expected)
Ah, the sweet smell of clean laundry. How much you have been missed. When you’re studying abroad, you spend almost all of your time (and money) hopping from place to place and doing homework in between time — leaving little space in the day to wash your clothes. You quickly get used to wearing things over and over again with few washes in between.
This is not to say personal hygiene should not be maintained. Wash. Your. Self.
✓ An unexpected newfound love for your campus
Something about being away from WKU for a while just makes the reunion so much lovelier. Story time: one of the first things I missed when I studied abroad was getting to experience campus in the fall. Getting out allows you to appreciate just how awesome our university is.
✓ A cliché but oh-so-genuine self-confidence
From riding a train to the city alone or simply finding a decently-priced place to eat nearby, you gain so much self-esteem and assuredness when you study abroad. Unlike any other experience, you’re able to prove yourself time and time again by continually throwing yourself (or being thrown) into situations and places outside of your comfort zone. And even if things don’t go perfectly, you still did it. You still proved to others, but mostly to yourself, that you’re capable.
✓ The ability to laugh through it all
Maybe it’s just that you’re forced to roll with the punches or maybe it’s that traveling has a way of loosening you up, but after studying abroad, you walk away with a much better sense of humor. It’s easier to laugh at the absurdity of things like missing your train in France because you left your documents in England or eating the nastiest, most bizarre sandwich in Stratford after you haven’t eaten all day or waiting outside with five other people in the freezing rain in the dark for a public bus to pick you up from the Cliffs of Moher while you watch the employees drive away one by one, praying all the while you don’t die here. (Yes, all true experiences of mine, all hilarious).
You, too, will be able to laugh at yourself more. Trip up the stairs for the fourth time today? Bust your rear trying to tell a joke to your friend? Walk around all morning with toilet paper hanging out of your pants? Get a giant grease stain on your pants because you swiped some butter from the café and forgot to get it out before it melted all over you? Me too! Life’s funny, man.
✓ The freedom and power of living a life not tied to the Internet
If you do what I did and what a lot of my friends did, you survive on wifi while studying abroad. Thus, most of your travel time is spent figuring things out for yourself, asking for directions when you get lost and just enjoying the moment. Not to sound too cheesy, but there is something really empowering in not being attached to your phone constantly. Plus, you get this gratifying feeling that (at least to an extent) you can get around on your own in a foreign country, which is no small feat.
✓ An unreal amount of empathy and connection with others
Certainly, the best thing I came home with after throwing myself into the deep for a semester was the incredible kinship I had to others. The love, respect and excitement I developed for others — others I traveled with, others I met, others I left behind — and for my fellow humans were the most game-changing things about my study abroad experience.
Once you’re able to get outside of the U.S., you start to realize how much bigger the world is and how connected we all are because of that.
✓ An incurable curiosity and wanderlust
The most expensive but one of the most treasured and valuable things you bring home is the drive to do more, to travel more, to explore more, to ask more questions. Because once you get a taste of the world, you hunger for it all the time. There’s so much to explore — so many memories and stories that are yet to be made, so many ridiculous goofs that have yet to happen, so many places to see and so much to learn about yourself and your fellow humans.
And these are just a few things on the list! The rad t-shirt and novelty mug collections didn’t even make the cut. So get out there, Hilltoppers. Go do some international reachin’. It’s so worth it.