Studying abroad was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever been blessed with. So incredible, in fact, that it had me wanting more. Following three months on a cruise ship (Semester at Sea-it’s amazing!), I craved travel constantly. I was longing to explore and learn about new places, see new things, and write another story for myself by means of flights and train rides. Realistically, I knew that my parents would not be eager to fork out more money for me to study abroad again. So I started thinking of other options.
As a junior in college with very little work experience under my belt, I knew it was time to search for internship opportunities. My passion for travel steered me towards applying for internships abroad, and through a few connections I soon found myself applying for a visa to work in London for the summer. Up until a few weeks before leaving America, I felt pure excitement. Then came the week before my flight, and the anxiety began to creep up in; I was hit with the realization that I was about to spend ten weeks halfway across the world with no one but myself. I was suffering from some very real anxiety and felt dependent on so many other people; I wasn’t exactly sure how I would do this on my own.
The day came to say “see you later” to my friends and family, and after my first flight to San Francisco, I found myself sobbing in a bathroom stall. I was having serious doubts, and wasn’t sure if I could get on that next flight to London. But damn, I’m glad I did.
Studying abroad and working abroad are two entirely different experiences, and both have shaped me tremendously. However, living alone, learning how to work in a new environment and in a new culture (thank goodness they speak English in London!), and depending entirely on myself for nearly everything, changed who I am more than anything else that I have gone through. This journey was only ten weeks, yet it was the time in which I grew up the most. I learned to be independent because I had no other choice, and I gained confidence through doing everything on my own.
I improved upon my interpersonal skills because if I wanted to have any friends at all, I had to learn how to communicate with new people. The way I deal with my anxiety has improved immensely as I was forced to face my issues head on while in a foreign environment. I couldn’t stay in bed or complain to anyone- instead I had to get up and go to work everyday and find a way to get through anything that felt difficult. I had stepped out of my comfort zone by moving to London, but once I was there I had to keep stepping.
My mindset has changed drastically and stressors that used to seem massive aren’t so big anymore. Confident is a word I now use to define myself, although I was searching for it just a few months ago. My time in London has changed me as a person as well as my outlook on the world, and as much as I love to share my story, I know I will never be able to completely explain to someone the full effects that this journey had on me. Instead of feeling frustrated at that fact, I feel as if it’s my own little secret and I feel happy. I feel so proud of myself for taking this leap, even though it was quite small in the grand scheme of things. I feel more independent than I ever have in my life.
I truly found myself in London. And when I boarded my flight out of the country, I remember my eyes welling up with tears. This time it wasn’t due to sheer terror of what might be ahead, but instead of pride for all that I had accomplished and the person that I was becoming.
About the author:
Bridget Coleman is a senior student at the University of Oregon. She aspires to use her degree to promote an idea or business of value to the rest of the world. She believes that traveling is the best way to learn about herself and about others. In her spare time, Bridget loves to go on runs, spend time with her family in Portland, Oregon, and snuggle with her Yorkipoo, Macy. She plans to teach English in Thailand in October.