I’ll start this essay off with a little background. I dropped out of high school at 18 during my last year because of mostly physical health issues but also some mental health. Middle school and high school were difficult. I ended up keeping to myself and had a few close friends. Growing up in the north is a little different than growing up in the south. I knew who was saying things behind my back (things that weren’t true) and they said the same things to my face often enough. I took a few years after high school to sort out my health before starting college. I went to Chattanooga State first and had a great experience. My peers were incredibly nice and often helpful. If it wasn’t for covid I would have gotten more involved there.
Now we move to UTC. I’ve completed a year and was extremely excited to go on this study abroad trip. I could barely afford it but was determined because the previous year had been rough. I’d lost my grandmother who had helped raise me. I’d never been to Europe, but I have pictures of her in Europe when she was younger. My friends who have studied abroad had amazing times and recommended I go. These essays are probably meant to be positive, but this experience was far from positive. I’ve put off writing this essay to try and find a way to twist it into a purely positive experience, but I can’t.
Starting off the trip went great. It seemed like the group was fun, and although I was unfamiliar with the professors, they seemed great too. International flights are extremely long but the people I ended up sitting by from my group made the time go by quicker. We were a group of just under 20 people. I could have been more prepared for this trip, but I work full-time and had been picking up a lot of shifts, so I hadn’t worried about planning each day and looking at each location on the itinerary. Most people who did that ended up changing there plans once we got to each place anyway.
The best part of the trip was seeing the places. London was busy and exciting. We spent the most time there and I got to go on a Jack the Ripper tour. There’s so much history in those streets. We also stayed in Munich and Nurnberg Germany. Nurnberg was my favorite of the too. It had gorgeous architecture and many shops to look at. Vienna, Austria was gorgeous, and I definitely plan on returning. I may have seen more historical sites on this trip than I had in my entire life! Looking at the trip from purely an educational perspective, it was great. I would have preferred to experience this stuff on my own or with a group of friends though, because of the other aspects of the trip. I did make two amazing friends throughout this trip though, and I am grateful to them for salvaging some fun moments among the chaos and hurt feelings the others caused.
The worst part was the rumors, lying, and drama. It felt like being back in middle school. I had such positive experiences my first 3 years of college that this caught me completely off guard. I ended up socializing within my little group of 3 people (including me) which left room for people to start rumors and tell lies. This aspect of the trip drastically impacted my mental health. There’s to much that happened to fit in a short essay but keeping to myself may have been the wrong choice in the end. One of the biggest lessons I learned from this trip was nice people have dark sides. I’ve let my guard drop to much since high school, and socially college seems to be an extension of high school. The dark side included. Overall, it’s better to just be yourself and not try to change for others. They’ll cause drama and hurt you either way.
Catherine Rocha (BS Psychology) spent Summer 2022 in England, Germany, and Austria as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Catherine had the following to say about study abroad, “Overall, it’s better to just be yourself and not try to change for others. They’ll cause drama and hurt you either way.”