As my time abroad comes to an end, both dramatically and quietly, it feels like I’m watching the ending of the greatest adventure movie.
I know that when I arrive home I will be asked all of the obvious questions, like: What was your favorite part? What will you miss most? Or, hardest of all: “Tell me everything.”
The time here has passed with the most extraordinary experiences and events. And now, I will be expected to give a summary of the movie to someone who has never entered a movie theater.
It’s an overwhelming feeling trying to come up with words to explain the growth that has taken place in me throughout this experience. I feel like I have become someone completely different, and hope that my family recognizes me when they pick me up at the airport.
Study abroad is more than just studying within a classroom context. Yes, we go to class and are expected to take tests over the course of the semester, but we are given the unique opportunity for the majority of our learning, growth and wisdom to foster in once-in-a-lifetime places.
Outside of the classroom walls, I have become more confident in my ability to problem-solve. I have gained a much better sense of direction, but also, have found the humility and boldness to ask a stranger for help when needed. I have learned that kindness is universal and that there is very much good still to be found in humankind.
When given the opportunity to travel and visit places we had dreamed of on our bucket lists, I was faced with the truth that even when reality falls short of expectation, this does not, as result, guarantee a failed experience, just a different one.
I remember the first time that I tried to plan a day trip, within the first few weeks of the semester, for a few friends and me to the coast of Cardiff Bay, Wales. I spent hours checking our train tickets to make sure I had the correct time and dates. Once we arrived at the train station at an unearthly hour of the morning, we got our train tickets printed to board the train.
After getting on the train I sat down and put my headphones in, expecting the ride to last about two hours. However, one of my friends quickly realized my mistake in planning and made us jump off at the next stop. I had somehow missed, in the hours of research and planning, that the train was not a straight ride. We had to wait about 30 minutes on a cold outdoor bench for the next connecting train.
I felt like I had failed my friends and ruined our weekend trip. I’d like to tell you that the disappointments stopped there, but they didn’t.
We were running away for the weekend toward the coast in hopes of warmer weather, but when we got to Cardiff Bay, it was cold and windy. We also had expected to find an entertainment pier close to the beach, as we saw online, but what we found was a sleepy coastal town.
However, we left Wales with the most unique and unexpected experiences. We went on a spontaneous boat tour in the bay with a funny Welsh driver, found a free beat-boxing competition going on in the nearby Wales Millennium Centre, and ended the night in a restaurant cheering alongside Welsh sports fans for their rugby team championship. In the end, the trip was much less than a failure.
Sometimes we missed the train. Sometimes we had to sleep, or not sleep, in hostels with less than comfortable arrangements. Sometimes we didn’t make it on time to get into the monument we had been waiting all day to see. But all those, seemingly fatal mishaps, turned into the best stories.
These are the stories I will share when I get home. Stories of minor let-downs and major victories. Stories of wrong turns and the achievement of arriving to the destination.
With every adventure, there are risks taken. With every path, there are unforeseen obstacles. Choices are made here. Growth takes place here.
The ACU Study Abroad program has been the greatest adventure I’ve ever said yes to.
My recommendation? Go get a ticket to watch the movie.