No matter how much we may love home, some of us just have an urge to wander.
My mom would be the first to tell you that she did everything she could to convince me to go to Europe, or anywhere in the world that is closer than New Zealand.
Going from Marist College in New York to the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, I am studying nearly as far away from home as I can possibly go. Marist is only two hours from my house, and I take advantage of the easy trip home for quick weekend visits; going across the world without that safety net is definitely new to me.
When I tell people where I’m going, they always seem to be struggling between congratulatory words of encouragement and shocked, questioning tones. I’ve been asked countless times why I didn’t want to study in a place like Europe, where I can be with tons of people from my school that I already know, and most importantly, where my friends and family can visit me.
If there’s one thing I’ve already learned through this study abroad process, it’s that convenience is almost never the most rewarding option.
Of course, everyone has their own preferences. For me, the convenience of being closer to home and familiarity was keeping me from what I really wanted. I want to think my own thoughts and fix my own problems, and really focus on what it means to be me. This is one of the first major decisions I’ve made in my life in which I didn’t ask people for their opinions/validation first. I just decided to go for it and follow my dreams.
Other than the obvious reasons for going abroad, like experiencing different cultures and feeding my adventurous side, I’m studying abroad to gain some perspective and focus on myself (not to mention I’ll be doing that in a country I love, which is pretty awesome!).
I’m one of those people everyone goes to for all of their problems. Big or small, stupid or serious, I’m always there to help and lend advice. I’ve started to realize that it takes a toll on me to be there for everyone all the time.
Being so far away means I won’t be as easy to reach—and that means I need to choose when I want to focus on other people, rather than automatically dropping everything for anyone. I’m hoping to take that skill home with me when I return, and learn how to take time for myself.
The time I am spending overseas is MY time. I’m using this to focus on what’s important to ME and get away from the drama of everyday life. Sure, there will still be problems that need solving no matter where I go, but when you take out the predictable, “boring” nature of everyday life, it’s easier to focus on bigger things.
Of course I’m going to miss the people closest to me, but it’s easy to forget how spoiled we are, constantly communicating with everyone at the touch of our fingertips. That also makes it easy to forget how much you appreciate someone, when they are so easily reachable every day.
I don’t want to be held back by the things that are comforting to me. Instead, I am doing things that terrify me: spending 27 hours on three different planes, leaving behind the luxury of constant communication with friends and family, and having to play the “new kid” and make new friends.
Getting out of your comfort zone forces you to work hard, and shows you what you really want. Placing myself in this unique circumstance is helping me to discover more about myself, and I can’t think of anything more rewarding.