Whether you hate high school or absolutely love it, there comes a time in those four years when most students realize that they may need a break from the chaos. For me, that was the middle of my freshman year. Don't get me wrong, I loved almost every aspect of high school, but came about December of freshman year, I decided to apply to The Traveling School.
This semester abroad program gave me the opportunity to spend my first semester of sophomore year embarking on a four-month journey where I would be traveling through Southeast Africa while learning. Inevitably, I extracted a few lessons from those four months which my high school failed to teach, and many of them have become important as a college freshman.
Here is a list of the 5 lessons that I believe have made the greatest impact on freshman year, while some are obvious and somewhat cliche, others are slightly more complex.
1. Living Away From Home
The main and quite obvious lesson that I extracted out of my semester abroad would be the ability to live away from home. As many people did, I chose the mainstream high school path- attending a school that I could commute to every day, allowing me to sleep at my own house. Therefore, my semester abroad was the first time I got to experience the uncomfortable, tough, and honestly awkward act of living away from home for a decent amount of time. There I learned that while you will always have your true home, other homes can come and go, proving that home is can be simply a mindset and not always a place. Freshman year, that lesson reminds you that your home will always be where you grew up, or where family resides, but college gives you the chance to create a new home also so it is worth a chance.
2. Self Management
It is difficult to learn self-management when you have others constantly micro-managing you, whether it's teachers, parents, or friends, and once you arrive at college, you do not always have those resources to guide you. Participating in a semester abroad in high school teaches you how to live without that support, placing you in an environment that forces you to figure things out on your own, which is exactly what you have to do in college.
High school was somewhat like a bed of roses- there were obviously some 'thorns' here and there in the awkward stages of those four years, but you felt comfortable in the 'soft petals' of the school with the routine environments and the familiar faces. With that said, life is not a bed of roses and it is important to be pushed outside of your comfort zone, allowing yourself to be vulnerable. By attending a semester abroad, I was at the epitome of being outside my comfort zone. I was vulnerable to making mistakes in front of unknown people, getting lost in a foreign country and vulnerable to the dangers of traveling abroad. However, it taught me that some of the best experiences and moments in life can come out of vulnerable episodes, like your freshman year in college, where you are stepping over your line of comfort.
By allowing yourself to be vulnerable, you are ultimately gaining a sense of self-confidence. My high school taught many great lessons, but confidence was not one of them, so most of the confidence that I have today stems directly from my friends, and mostly from my semester abroad. When you have a sense of confidence, you form your own mannerisms, you make your own decisions, and you are independent. Essentially, you make yourself your own person, capable of doing things by yourself, and in college, it is important to have confidence in all aspects of your life, whether it be socially, academically, or just personally.
5. The World is Huge
Whether you lived in a large city or in a small hometown, everyone naturally forms a small community during high school. The typical high school community can be defined as your family, your friends, your acquaintances, and those people who you just know of. Little did I know before attending my semester abroad, the world expands far beyond my bubble of a community. Those four months abroad illustrated to me that there are not only so many intriguing people outside my previous community, but many more unique places, fascinating sights, diverse foods, etc. When beginning freshman year, remembering that the world stretches way beyond my high school community gave me a sense of comfort. It urged me to want to experience a new environment, encouraging me to take in all aspects of this new environment.