*This guest blog was written by Rachel Morones about her experience studying abroad. Rachel is an English major, expected to graduate in spring 2020.
Like some who have lived in a small town I have often found myself repeating some variation of the phrase: “Someday I’m going to get out of here and go somewhere.” And for most of my life, that was as far as I’d ever gotten. I had been to New York and Boston, but those were family trips with people I knew and recognized, and I was never fully out of my comfort zone. There is a big difference between going places with family and going places by yourself. It's a confidence thing.
I had seen the study abroad information tables set up on campus every fall semester since I was a freshman. In fact, I had always made a point to avoid them because affording a trip would be a challenge for me; but whenever the flyers and handouts were left out for passersby to view or take, I would always take one. Once again that phrase would ring in my head “Someday I’ll do something like this.” Well, the start of someday happened in the fall of 2018. One of the professors running the table asked me if I was interested in learning about the European Council study abroad program and I had about two hours before my next class, so I said sure. She explained the sign-up process and handed me about five flyers before sending me on my way with my promise to email my advisor about one of the programs.
A major part of the study abroad program is going to the study abroad orientation, and I was a nervous wreck. What if I didn’t meet anyone from my program? Or worse what if I did and they all hated me? What if something was wrong with my paperwork and I wasn’t even signed up for the program? Luckily for me, I met people with my program, they didn’t hate me, and all my paperwork was in order. Now I had a little over a month to do a large portion of my coursework before getting on a nine-hour flight across the ocean and staying in a foreign country for 34 days. It took motivation and determination.
The process of getting to London was an adventure in and of itself. We had no idea about our flight information, or anything like that, prior to departure day. About four hours after that I was on a plane to London Heathrow Airport. As soon as we touched down, we were taken to Ramsay Hall, our home for the next 34 days.
We were immediately told to come back to the courtyard and get into groups because we needed to tour the local neighborhood and learn how the tube operates. The next day we were sent on a group photo scavenger hunt to help us learn the area. Sunday was the group excursion to Hampton Court Palace and Gardens, and Monday was my morning class’s first field trip.
Perhaps it would help if I added some context to how your average week is structured. Monday is the field trip for your morning class. Professors are instructed to keep the student out for at least six hours. Tuesdays and Thursdays are regular class days at the dorms. Wednesdays are field trips for your afternoon class. Friday is an optional excursion that you would have had to sign up for beforehand, Saturday is a free day, and Sunday is another optional excursion. Yes, this means you have three-day weekends, and yes, you can leave the London area by yourself if you like. Even on class days, you will have free time so you can do things then as well.
You will make friends there, trust me, but it’s OK to do something or go somewhere alone. Friends aren’t hard to come by on the program if you put yourself out there.
I enjoyed the class-sanctioned field trips, but I have to say I enjoyed going to places with friends I had made more than anything else. My advice to you is to go. Do it. Make friends with people you don’t know under extraordinary circumstances. Live in a country that isn’t your own and experience it. Get the grade in a place other than Dalton State with professors that will put you out of your comfort zone. Because “someday” is whenever you make it. Go make yours.
posted 10/02/2019 in Academics
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