Welcome Back

As my last post before my flight bright and early tomorrow morning for the States, I figured I would take today to just reflect on these past months. Which it’s crazy to even say that I’ve been gone for months. I guess time is an illusion.

I’ve had a few people say to me how proud they are that I “stepped outside my comfort zone.” And to that, I don’t know how to respond. I feel like that is so fake and doesn’t apply to me, a person who of all the places in the world, chose to stay on the same continent to “study abroad.” And choose a place that when they consider the semester “Winter,” they don’t lie.

So I feel like I shouldn’t receive much credit for just living somewhere else for a few months. In my head, that doesn’t seem like a big deal. Study abroad is becoming more and more common, and I constantly see people I know off traveling and going on adventures. Compared to most people, when I say I went to Canada, they’re kind of confused. Why would I choose to subject myself to frigid weather to live one time zone away from home? Big whoop.

Please realize that I am generally very hard on myself. It’s weird for me to think otherwise. It doesn’t help that I come into the experience, as if this were my first year of college again, with tons of expectations for myself. Assuming I would immediately make lots of great friends. That I would always be off exploring somewhere new. That I would step foot somewhere new and just thrive in all aspects.

Okay, being hard on yourself AND optimistic and ambitious isn’t a great combination. It just sets you up for failure, or at least disappointment. Why do social situations make me anxious? Why does figuring out public transportation make me anxious? Why can’t I just transform into this outgoing, spontaneous person who is constantly energetic and socializing and doing everything that everybody else seems to be doing?

Because that’s not me. I think people, including me, paint studying abroad as a mind-blowing, life-changing experience. That’s sure what some people’s social media posts look like as they’re off in Europe or Australia or Hawaii. For me, this semester has been about me, having a chance to just do what I want to do. Which, most of the time, isn’t very glamorous. It’s often turned out to be lots of reading and getting into podcasts and learning about new things.

I’ve also faced some fears and have come to realizations. The pressure I put on myself in academics really went into haywire as Canadian grading became real. They don’t mention much about the actual classes when studying abroad, do they? For someone who has only really seen top marks for all of my hard work, not seeing that has been…hard. To say the least.

I’ve also learned how much I value the people in my life. Although I mentioned it before, most of my semester has been me constantly questioning, Am I doing this right? Am I missing out? Am I not doing enough? And I wish I had an answer. But global learning coordinators also don’t tell you much about being mentally ill and studying abroad. So many different factors are involved with studying abroad that I didn’t necessarily consider.

But with all of the hard days, not including the days when it just wouldn’t stop snowing, those hard days made me appreciate the good things even more. The coming of sunshine and spring temperatures was an amazing transformation. My means of exploring, walking until I feel like turning back, had me stumble upon some beautiful finds. I cannot imagine a landscape now without dense clusters of trees everywhere. I also greatly appreciate the people I do have in my life and how valuable they are to me.

Do I feel like a changed person coming back? I don’t know. Obviously we’re always changing and evolving, but I hope, if anything, I have become more grateful. More in awe of the beauty of nature and loved ones. I hope I can just go on walks wherever I am and stumble upon little discoveries. I hope my love of travel will push me toward whatever chapter may be next after I graduate next spring. Heck, maybe I’ll start throwing in “eh?” at the end of sentences just for fun. I have an excuse now, right?

It doesn’t feel like I’m flying back south, that I’ll no longer feel like a makeshift Canadian citizen. Because yes, I will truly miss this place. I will miss the immense kindness of every single person I meet, the scenery of this campus and town and country, the Prime Minister that I was mere feet from in passing, the new little place that I can call a little piece of home. Especially if I end up becoming a recluse in the Canadian woods. I have to keep my options open.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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One comment

  1. Dana Elliott · May 10

    Ah, Allie, you are spot on, and you reflect so much of what many study abroad students say. I wish I were able to tell you this in person, but there is no “right” way to do study abroad. After my first study abroad experience in Germany, I felt like I had mucked it up somehow because I wasn’t immediately this different person who traveled every weekend. I was just me. More me than I usually was, just as the input from being in a different place is more /everything/. Study abroad makes normal things seem hard and I perceived everything like it was on steroids because the stimulus is just turned way up. But I digress.

    I don’t think of study abroad as some line in the sand that you cross and it miraculously makes you different. It’s more like a mirror that reflects yourself and everything around you and gives you perspective and helps you see things you weren’t aware of. I discovered I was mentally ill while abroad, for example. I am happy to talk to anyone anytime about the realities of studying abroad with a mental illness. I’m sorry we weren’t able to have those conversations before I left USD. But I want to reassure you that you sound like myself and many other students after they’ve spent time away. It doesn’t feel miraculous, possibly, but it /was/. Your bravery is clear; take it from someone who talked to students everyday about these opportunities, only to be told “I could never do that” so many times. But you did. You did this. You are very brave, and this experience will continue to shape you in ways you don’t realize yet, as part of it still occurs once you return home. Many good wishes to you and take care of yourself! ❤

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