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Lessons Learned Abroad

    By Katarina Lage. March 23, 2016 - 8:16 pm

imageThirty-five airplane transfers, nine unique and breath taking countries, and one year abroad. In high school I was voted “Most Likely to Live in Another Country,” and I guess that hasn’t changed much since I left Rapid City, South Dakota.

Hawai’i Pacific University allowed me the opportunity to explore the depths of my wanderlust and escape the monotony of the normal university classroom to learn at the hands of experience. While studying abroad in Athens, Greece and Quito, Ecuador I learned more about the world than I ever would have by reading a textbook.

A red bench along the river in Passau, Germany is where the memories of studying abroad in Europe first started flooding back to me. The language around me was as unique as the people that rushed about their business. I had landed in Reykjavik, Iceland on Jan. 2, 2015 and was getting ready to return back to that beautiful and mysterious city before heading back to the United States. Perhaps my year abroad didn’t change me completely, but it did accentuate traits that were once hidden.

imageStudying abroad taught me how to live without a cellphone, how to communicate with those that don’t speak English while living in their home, to adapt to changing surroundings and hoarding water in case Cotopaxi erupted, to live out of my blue hiking backpack for weeks at a time, and that no matter what country you are in a smile can change your day.

The weather is not always perfect and you might be swinging into clouds at the end of the world instead of the usual mountainous abyss, the plans always change, you might miss your train out of Aguas Caliente and be stuck at Machu Picchu for an extra day, and everyone runs out of money. Studying abroad is adapting to the unknown, becoming used to traveling alone, and becoming an expert in interpreting train schedules. Every step along the way you leave a part of yourself behind and your inner nomad won’t ever want to live idle.

The biggest lesson that you learn when studying abroad is that you don’t have forever to travel wherever and whenever you want. If you don’t go today, then you may never go and that is why you need to carpe diem. Studying abroad allows you to learn about history or modern events first hand.

You become the expert on the Greek financial crisis or the possible eruption of Cotopaxi in Ecuador. You see where the Spartans fought to their death and the mysterious city of Machu Picchu, which is on everyone’s bucket list. Studying abroad takes you out of the lecture and puts you in the world that we don’t have nearly enough time in.

When else in your life can you leave behind all of your belongings in a storage unit in Hawaii and travel for a year without any hesitation? When else will you learn that baklava is delicious and eating it every day is completely acceptable or that missing a train or plane isn’t the end of the world?

Maybe you’ll injure yourself or end up with a parasite, but someday those will be stories that people will beg you to tell time and again. Studying abroad turns you into the person that no one expects to see in one place and allows you to connect with people from all over the world because you’ve been there.

My recommendation is that you buy a tour guide book to a country you’ve always wanted to go to and just go; don’t hesitate. The biggest regret that you’ll ever have is waiting forever for something that doesn’t manifest. You are in charge of your life. Go out and live it.

Photos courtesy of Katarina Lage.

One Response to Lessons Learned Abroad

  1. Ivy Marie Reply

    May 3, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    I absolutely love this. I’ve always wanted to just pick up a backpack & go. And this writing definitely gave me more wanderlust. Travel is amazing!

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