What do you see? Initially you might think it’s the mood swings of a teenage girl. But, if you look more closely, you might see that it’s the emotions of a study abroad student. When I began looking into study abroad, one of the first things I searched for on the internet was the reviews of other students. Within moments, I began to get annoyed. Every single review was some variation of, “I had the best [insert time period of study abroad here] of my life, I made so many memories that will last a lifetime, and I really discovered myself.” Don’t believe me? Go on google and type “study abroad reviews” in the search bar if you haven’t already.
I thought there were three possibilities 1) all study abroad students catch some strange disease that makes them happy all the time, 2) students are indoctrinated into telling everyone what a great time they had, so more people will study abroad, or 3) they actually did have the best time of their lives, made memories, and discovered themselves. Being the optimistic person I am, I hoped for the third, but the realist in me kept an eye out for numbers one and two.
When I arrived in Costa Rica, I was exhausted from the flight and out of necessity I was thrown into speaking a language I was extremely rusty at—and I’m being kind. On the first day of school, I was enchanted with Veritas’ quaint campus, the beautiful view from the classrooms, and how much I was learning. However, there were a few things that I wasn’t too crazy about.
First, I was tired all the time. I went from going to bed at one every night, to going to bed at ten… at the latest. Second, headaches. Lots of headaches. Surprise, learning a new language, and attempting to speak and be understood the same way that’s possible in a mother tongue is extremely stressful and tiring. It’s difficult to maintain a close relationship with family when both parties are busy, and half a hemisphere away. Also, two words: traveler’s sickness. (That’s all I’m going to say about that.) So… when’s all this magic supposed to happen?
About three weeks into the program, I’m seeing bits of fairy dust. Why? Because of those two words made famous by motivational speakers: “Comfort Zone.”
Study abroad doesn’t just take you outside of your comfort zone, it takes you out of your comfort planet, and brings you to a totally different comfort galaxy. But, Joel Osteen was right. From studying abroad, I have realized that I have strengths that I didn’t even know were possible for me to have. Every day is a surprise, and every day gives me an opportunity to learn in and outside of the classroom. I am looking forward to experiencing more of this magic in my last week and a half in Costa Rica.