“You cannot grow without being uncomfortable.”
This very sentence came from a physical therapist that I was recently shadowing last week. He has a daughter a year younger than me that is about to leave for college in another state, and this is what he tells her daily. I find this statement very useful to remember for not only his daughter but for everyone.
We live in a culture where it is common for an 18-year-old to graduate from high school and apply to several colleges where they will eventually pick one, attend four years, graduate, get a job, and have a family. What we fail to realize is that college is our opportunity to test our limits, explore our world, and gather knowledge. I believe that studying abroad is the best way to accomplish these things.
I come from a fairly normal family structure consisting of my mother, my father, and my two brothers. For 18 years of my life I lived in the same city, spent time with the same people, and pursued the same hobbies. After graduating from high school in 2018, I decided that it was time to make some changes, knowing that it would be emotionally difficult for me as I have always done the same things.
With some guidance from my family members and some boost of courage, I chose to attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. It isn’t common for first years to study abroad, especially for someone who is such a homebody, like myself. When the opportunity to study in another country was brought up to me, my amazing Spanish teacher explained to me how amazing it could be. I would be able to take a classes with this teacher and other students from UTC in Costa Rica. How could I give up an opportunity like this? The answer is that I couldn’t! After a lot of paperwork and searching for scholarships, the trip to Costa Rica was made affordable and I was set to fly overseas!
I spent five weeks living with a wonderful host family who not only helped me better my Spanish-speaking skills, but also helped me understand Costa Rican culture. My host mother even cooked me traditional Costa Rican meals and taught me how to make a dish for when I return to the United States. I attended Veritas University which was only a short five minute walk from my house, where I had amazing teachers and met so many friends from so many different states. On the weekends, I saw many different parts of Costa Rica, including the Caribbean, the tropical forests, the Arenal Volcano, and so much more. Costa Rica was a country full of beauty and things to do. Five weeks was not enough to explore all of what was to offer.
Despite my record of sticking with the same routine, I have never felt so at home in a place that was so far from it. I hope to one day continue my journey in exploring diverse cultures this world has to offer.
Anna Lunsford is majoring in Exercise Science and studied abroad in Summer 2019 in San Jose, Costa Rica with CISabroad. Anna had the following to say about studying abroad, “You can’t grow without being uncomfortable, so by immersing yourself into a culture outside of your own can do just that.”
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