For me, thinking about the possibility of studying abroad felt like standing on a cliff, while contemplating the intriguing but unknown indigo waters below it. Astonishingly tempting, but incredibly scary. Going to study abroad felt like jumping off that cliff into those gorgeous deep waters, without knowing what was underneath.
Jumping off the cliff was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have changed and learnt more about life during the past two years of studying abroad than I have during the rest of my life.
1) “Jumping off the cliff”
When you are contemplating the beautiful indigo waters from the top of the cliff, you are in your comfort zone. A comfort zone keeps you calm, safe, and free from anxiety. But, staying there for too long may do more bad than good: you may be missing out on quite a lot. Challenging yourself enables you to use your untapped knowledge while you discover parts of yourself you didn’t even know you had, even though you may feel overwhelmed at times.
Also, in my experience, once you “jump off the cliff”, you fall in love with the feeling it brings… you want more. You fall in a cycle of constant growth and flourishment (it is addictive!). You want to go further, to explore every nook inside those waters. You end up doing stuff you wouldn’t have done if you stayed back home. So, by going out of your comfort zone, you are expanding it.
“BECAUSE IN THE END, YOU WON’T REMEMBER THE TIME YOU SPENT IN THE OFFICE OR MOWING YOUR LAWN. CLIMB THAT GODDAMN MOUNTAIN ― Jack Kerouac
“TRAVEL HAS A WAY OF STRETCHING THE MIND” ― Ralph Crawshaw
2) You fight your fears
While on top of the cliff, the indigo sea seems unreachable. You are incredibly high up, and the mere thought of jumping makes you shiver. It is common to use fear as an excuse for not to “jump off”. And yeah, the truth is that fear acts as a barrier you have to crush over. But you know what acts as a major barrier? Your mind. Your thoughts. You!
Overthinking increases fear, turning it from a small spark to a gigantic ball. And avoidance. Avoiding what you are scared of will make that heavy ball of fear stick to your back, where it keeps growing. This will slow you down. Of course it is harder to jump with an enormous ball stuck to your back!.. The idea here is that fear isolates the power you carry within you. The solution is to face it, and fight it. I promise that massive ball of fear will fall once you jump into the water. And it will float away. And this will be one of the best feelings you get to experience.
So if you feel fearful… continue forward. You are expanding. Your best experiences exist beyond the bubble of your own personal thoughts and beliefs. Nurture your fears, do not run away from them.
“BLISS IS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF FEAR” ― Will Smith
“THE MOST DANGEROUS THING YOU CAN DO IN LIFE IS PLAY IT SAFE” ― Casey Neistat
3) You are all by yourself
While abroad, even if you make tons of friends, at the end of the day it is you who has to deal with all the new stuff and “adult life”. You learn so sooo much about yourself. Of course you would learn about yourself if you don’t go abroad. But I believe that you would learn like 8293560 times more if you do. You may (very likely) experience that moment of: “I made a crazy decision! I miss home. What the hell am I doing here???”. And… this is the right direction! You start questioning your life, your values, your future… Pretty much you start questioning everything. Plus, you have a new surrounding and new people, which also invites questioning and self-exploration.
“SOME STEPS NEED TO BE TAKEN ALONE. IT’S THE ONLY WAY TO REALLY FIGURE OUT WHERE YOU NEED TO GO AND WHO YOU NEED TO BE.” ― Mandy Hale
4) You get to live a “double life”
It seems like you have two homes, two surroundings, two lifes. Or it may seem like you are a nomad and have no home. Either way, what impacted me the first time I went back home after being abroad was the idea that everything there was the same as when I left. Yeah, this sounds pretty obvious, I know. But the thing is that it seemed like ages since I was there, and after having experienced so many changes, I arrived with a different feeling. I somehow expected more change. But what had changed was myself.
When I went back home, I was able to view everything in a different light thanks to all the life lessons, experiences, and inspiration. Going to the same place with the same atmosphere and feeling different makes you realise how much you have grown. And you family and friends will see it too.
“WHEN WE GET HOME, HOME IS STILL THE SAME. BUT SOMETHING IN OUR MIND HAS BEEN CHANGED, AND THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING.” ― Jonah Lehrer
5) You learn to appreciate people and places
Studying abroad involves the idea that you are constantly traveling from one place to another: leaving your old friends and making new ones, then going back home for summer and Christmas, then going back to uni… and the cycle continues. You are constantly changing your surroundings, so you have to say “goodbye” many times.
For me, this made me more aware about the fact that nothing lasts forever, so you learn to appreciate things more. Being grateful is an amazing skill. Gratitude makes us happier, healthier, and it reduces materialism. You learn that happiness is not about the physical things you have, but about experiences and relationships. It is about appreciating what you have now, instead of falling into the trap of “when I have ‘something’ I will be happy”, because that will probably not happen.
“IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, YOU MIGHT NEVER BE HAPPY” ― Tim Ferris
“LET US BE GRATEFUL TO THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE US HAPPY; THEY ARE THE CHARMING GARDENERS WHO MAKE OUR SOULS BLOSSOM.” ― Marcel Proust
So, if you have the opportunity, do not hesitate.
Even if you are scared. Especially if you are scared. It will probably be one of the best decisions you ever make. Trust me!