Studying abroad was always something that I knew I wanted to do. The options were endless and making a choice was a lot harder than I anticipated, so I went abroad four times! My first experience was through a summer field study with Dr. Chong to Guatemala where we studied the lasting impact of a gruesome civil war, cemented a school yard, and hiked a volcano. This experience during my first year was eye-opening and completely changed my outlook on Rollins, the world, and my life. Though the travel bug and wanting to explore different cultures and every nook and cranny of the world was an endless yearning, it wasn’t until my junior year that I made the jump to spend the entire year abroad.
The fall was spent in Rome, Italy living in a convent, interning at the European Union, and eating more pasta than I thought was possible. The spring was spent in a sleepy Spanish town, Oviedo, where I learned how to manage expectations at a homestay, book ridiculously cheap travel around Europe, improve my Spanish language skills, and become a pro at tapas and “escanciando.” Coming back from a year abroad was surreal; Rollins was different, my friends and family were different, but most importantly, I was a different person. I was a person who watched foreign news stations, had a genuine interest in trying any type of cuisine, and could strike up a conversation with a stranger no matter when or where. I cared about the world and my place in it to a degree that was far beyond what I could have ever imagined.
Not even two weeks back in the good old USA, I decided that a winter field study to Thailand and Burma with Dr. Chong was the perfect way to end four years of exploration and learning. I gave up my final college New Year’s Eve with friends and family and instead travelled half way around the world to work with Burmese refugees in Thailand. We ate weirdly shaped fruits, duck soup for breakfast, and travelled on back roads to hidden orphanages to provide a little bit of love to those who need it most. When I finally landed back in America, I knew that my days of endless travel were over, the real world would soon set in and I would become comfortable in my 8-5 job, but what I didn’t realize was how untrue that would actually be.
Leaving the United States for extended periods of time can be frightening, the world is a scary place, but the benefits more than make up for the few terrifying moments you may experience. You become more aware of who you are, what you want from those around you, your place in the world, and most importantly you realize that America isn’t the be all end all. The world is a complex and ever changing place. It is really hard for me to put into words exactly what my international experience has done for my personal and professional growth but one thing I do know is that the world isn’t what it used to be for my eighteen year old self. The world is different. I am different. I am a better human being and I can’t thank Rollins enough for those experiences.