Submitting my application to Study Abroad was a last minute decision for me, but I believe in the importance of regular risk taking to remind yourself that you can do all the things that your subconscious may be telling you otherwise.
Sometimes it is best not to wait around making the lists of pros and cons and instead let yourself experience the pros and cons. It is likely the pros will be far greater and memorable, and the cons will make good stories to tell later.
A few months before the applications were due, I heard about a Study Abroad opportunity to Oxford, England, that would give me class credits that were in line with my major in Convergence Journalism. I quickly rearranged all my plans for the spring semester and said yes to an unknown adventure.
The few days we had left at ACU leading up to our departure were spent sitting in the pews of Chapel on the Hill and listening to stories of what our future experiences might bring. It was absolutely terrifying.
I was in Abilene, but only for a limited time. Somehow it felt like I was beginning a normal semester. I was seeing friends again for the first time after break, getting coffee in the library Starbucks and going to Chapel with friends, but I had to do it all at a distance with the realization that I would be leaving in a matter of days.
It seemed surreal. I told myself that it wouldn’t feel real until I stepped off the airplane but honestly, it still feels like a dream.
We left ACU on Jan. 16 with both the Oxford and Leipzig groups, after saying our last goodbyes to friends and family. The bus ride to the DFW airport was mixed with nervous chatter about what to expect and weird silence from everyone’s thoughts of, “What have I done?”
After frantically grabbing our bags from the bus, following others to print boarding passes, and praying our suitcases fell under the weight requirement, we made our way through the bustle of airport security. Once we were through, we slowly congregated in front of our gate with anxious anticipation. It was a weird mix of friends and acquaintances.
At this point, we had all spent a significant amount of time together undergoing a highly emotional transition process, but still didn’t know what our Study Abroad group dynamic would look like once we arrived at the houses.
After the nine-hour flight to the London Heathrow Airport, we said rushed goodbyes to our friends heading to catch their layover flight to Germany.
Once we got our luggage and boarded the bus, we drove on the wrong side of the road as we read weird road signs from the window. We got assigned our rooms and floors. It was like we were moving in for a summer camp, the slightly awkward unknown had made everyone anxious to settle in, but the tight community and new place seemed to promise good stories and growth.
The most challenging part of the Study Abroad transition is surrendering your plans. They will not tell you exactly what to expect, who is teaching your classes, what days your classes will be held and where, or what your rooming situation will be like until you step onto the foreign ground.
However, in the few days I have been here I have already become a different person – no, a better person. I have learned new things about myself through being forced to reevaluate who I am outside of my culture and the familiar.
I have learned new things about the people around me, both the other students here and the strange and unique ways of the British people. I have learned new things about God, that He is still here, working just the same. But He is even bigger now than my American God.
The experience is once-in-a-lifetime and even though it takes a big sacrifice to make the decision to Study Abroad, it is undoubtedly worth it and more. I believe that the students around the world right now proudly sporting ACU would agree that, although we feel sudden pains of missing home, submitting that Study Abroad application is a decision of no regret.