I traveled on an airplane for the first time when I was 17 years old. We flew to LA in about 4 hours and until this May, that was the longest plane ride I had ever been on. That was nothing compared to the international flights to and from Europe required for this once in a lifetime journey. Although it was a new experience in itself, the long hours spent on airplanes and in airports were not the most memorable part of this trip; they were not even the most memorable ways we traveled. Although traveling may just seem like a way of getting from one point to another, the different ways of traveling are a cultural experience in itself. We traveled on doubledecker buses, trains, and the underground tube. And that was in London alone! While many may overlook the plane, bus, and train rides; I felt they were important to my study abroad trip. From journaling on the longer trips as a way to decompress and take in all that I was learning, to trying to figure out a trolley route that was entirely in german. Taking in advertisements for the newest shows along the underground corridors or watching a safety video on a trolley that I could not understand. All of this is part of the cultural experience for me, and while many might see this part of the trip as a waste of time and wish we could just teleport from destination to destination, I feel it was valuable to my time in Europe.
A few days into our stay in London we took a train ride to Birmingham University to visit an old colleague and friend of one of the professors. He set up a campus tour and a few lectures for us to sit in on. What I remember on the way there was just how tired I was. It was an early morning and a few of us got back to the hotel pretty late after exploring around London. So I was tired and honestly, this was one of the days I was not really looking forward to. The professor that showed us around campus specializes in Linguistics and set up lectures with his students and colleagues to teach us about their different areas of interest. Before these lectures, I had no idea that the importance linguistics could have in psychology and just how interested I was in the field. So I went from an early morning train ride where I was falling asleep and just trying to get through the day to an afternoon on the same train back, excitedly journaling and talking to my peers and professors about this whole new side of psychology I had discovered.
A similar juxtaposition happened on a grander scale with the long plane rides to and from Europe. I began this trip not knowing a single soul on it. I had never taken a class with either of the professors and did not know any of the other students that had signed up. So here I was, traveling out of the country for the first time in my life with a bunch of strangers but trying to be optimistic. I would definitely describe the meet up in the Chattanooga airport as awkward and uncertain but definitely optimistic. As we all slowly trickled into the terminal and introduced ourselves we were able to slowly adjust to the group we would be spending the next two weeks with. However, this was nothing compared to leaving the Chattanooga airport at the end of the trip. While it was filled with happy reunions between friends, families, and partners; it was also filled with goodbyes between new (and hopefully lifelong) friends, making plans for the future and exciting conversations about seeing each other on campus.
Isabella Jones (BS Psychology) spent Summer 2022 in England, Germany, and Austria as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Isabella had the following to say about study abroad, “Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity to connect with your peers and community while simultaneously enriching your knowledge of other cultures.”