The following blog post was written by Peer Advisor Alyssa, a senior in CCAS studying anthropology and French. You can learn more about her here.
Not All Those Who Wander are Lost
From my sophomore year of high school, I wanted to study abroad in a foreign country for an entire academic year. My history teacher that year had inspired and challenged me to throw myself into a new culture, new language, and new group of people. However, it was always a vague idea and not something concrete for me to hold in my hands. My first two years at GW were about making that idea a reality, though at times I felt as overwhelmed as Bilbo serving thirteen dwarves and a wizard at his house. I had to schedule my classes just right balancing them between Honors and my major and my general education (just as perilous as the dwarves cleaning up Bilbo’s house). Then I had to find the perfect program, apply to it, and get approval from my departments and from Study Abroad. But, it happened, after a long spring semester I had found the perfect program—a language immersion program in Paris through Academic Programs Abroad.
Finally, the day was here. I was stepping on the plane that was about to take me off American soil and to the adventure that would be the rest of my year. At first, I felt like Bilbo—dashing off with my possessions, contract in hand! Yet, when I landed in the Paris airport after little sleep, I had to navigate the French train system by myself and started to regret my decision. I stood there in the Paris airport, jet-lagged, barely able to communicate, and with far too much time to think as I waited 6 hours for my train to arrive. I had just left everything I knew and loved—my house, my parents, my friends, my dog—to live in this place where I knew no one and could not even speak to people with my own language. I was stuck here until May and while here, everyone’s lives would move on without me.
Yet, even from my first day in Paris, I knew I made the right choice. There were hardships—getting lost in the city, or eating in the university cafeteria on the first day. All those little hardships helped me prove to myself that I can do anything if I take a deep breath and jump into any situation. I met one of my good friends on the first day at the university table when I finally got up the courage to eat with another lonely person at a table. My program challenged me to come out of my shell. Each adventure allowed me to learn more about myself—how do I react with being in a new city by myself? How do I represent myself in a language that is not my own? While wandering around France and Europe, I found the answers to these questions and more.
Now that I am there and back again, I realized my fears about life moving on without me, were just fears. I am back at GW and better than ever. Of course, life kept moving for my friends while I was in France, however, my life kept moving too. Though it sounds cliché, studying abroad for the year was the best decision of my life. I did not just grow in regards to my language, or academics, or even travel savvy. I grew. I came back as a person who was more confident, more open, more knowledgable about the world outside of the US. As Frodo Baggins said, “How do you pick up the threads of your old life…when in your heart you know there is no going back?” There is no going back to being the same person after you have walked among different people, spoken a different language, and lived a different life for a year. However, the life experience, the language skills, and the fantastic relationships you gain are vaux le peine (worth it). I highly suggest going abroad for a year, because while “wandering” around the world, you might just find yourself.