By studying abroad in London, Germany, and Vienna, my sparks of passion for traveling and psychology escalated into a fire within me. With this experience I was able to continue my journeys of travel. This is a vital component of my life that I plan to continuously chase after until I die. Growing up, I usually stayed with my mom in small towns where diversity was scarce to none and the idea of living outside of the small community couldn’t be found. Everyone around me stayed in one place their entire life, and pushed high school as being the peak of my peers and I’s lives. This made me sick to my stomach, but on the other hand, ever since I was 9 I flew across the United States every year to visit my father. Him and I would drive throughout the west, meeting new people and seeing new places. We would live in forests and hotels, reminiscing about times when we lived together on the border of Mexico.
These completely contrasting parts of my life influenced me to want to study the mind and see everywhere at least once. I wanted to understand the opposing views of how I grew up, along with my family and self. I have continued to tour the U.S. every chance I get, and now I can say that at the young age of 20 I have visited three countries other than the U.S. Here I observed my peers and how they interacted with these new places. I made the point of learning what I could about my peers’ backgrounds and personalities, as well as reflected on my own. With this I relished in how we went about in these new places, which kept me in awe. I also became interested in how the people of these other countries perceived us. In London I spoke with a few people about America, but a few people stood out to me.
In a bookstore, a young man approached me about the book I held and the outfit I wore. He complimented both, yet hadn’t noticed my American accent. Later he approached me again, and asked where I was from. When I told him Tennessee he was in shock. He wondered why I didn’t have a country accent, and iterated Dolly Parton and her influence on Tennessee. I quickly turned on my southern accent just to satirize my upbringing, but this man jumped and yipped with excitement. Never in my life would I think that my accent could be something to adore or like. Another man I met felt the same for the country life I have lived and went on about Nashville and farmers. He loved the idea of this culture, but once again I was in utter shock. Just like I adored London and its culture, people there adored me and mine. Germany, however, didn’t have this same warmth. The residents there stared at me when they heard my accent, giving me a feeling of insecurity. The only time I was able to connect with someone was when we went to the countryside and I sparked conversation with an older man on the bus.
This man and I made a connection over Covid-19. He told me his story of being in a coma for three months and in the hospital for five. Having this conversation stuck with me. To go across the entire world and hear of the tribulations another went through, sharing stories back and forth of how our lives were similar and different due to the pandemic was otherworldly. People are resilient, fascinating, intriguing. I want nothing more than to continue to see the world’s wonders. I want to see the grand architecture, the beautiful forests, but most of all I want to continue to observe people. I want to make connections and hear others’ stories. I want to witness how they function and what they believe in. Without studying abroad with peers and mentors from UTC, I do not know if I would have truly considered the psychological part of traveling. Not only have I solidified my passion for learning how the mind works and how people are all over the world, but I have also discovered where I want to further my skills and abilities.
In London I met a man with a suitcase full of copies of a book he published and listened to his story of meeting people all over the world. His book is based on all of the people he has met and how these encounters made up the true meaning of his life. He saw all of the tiny experiences he had with people as the true bigger picture, and stressed that life isn’t complete without the reflections on these encounters. I resonated with all of me, what he told me. Then, while at Birmingham University, I was able to make connections to doctors, researchers, and professors. Listening to their presentations, talking to them, I was opened up to the vast amount of options I have. Literature is one of my passions that I have clung to throughout my life. In college I have been using literature to make connections to traveling and psychology. So, while in Birmingham, I learned how I can tie literature to my psychology degree. As soon as I arrived back home I emailed the head of the English department at UTC and decided to minor in literature. All in all, studying abroad I came home with a refreshed love for the big passions of my life: psychology, literature, traveling, and individuals. They all go hand in hand and I can utilize each to achieve all of the goals I have set in place for myself, as well as find my meaning in life, just as Frankl would advise.
Victoria Pierce (BS Psychology) spent Summer 2022 in England, Germany, and Austria as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Victoria had the following to say about study abroad, “Studying abroad isn’t just a time to see new places, meet new people, and learn new things. Studying abroad is also a time to relearn yourself and solidify your passions.”
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