When processing my time abroad, I immediately begin to compare myself to the person I was before I left and who I am now that I’ve returned. I consider what I learned, who I met, where I traveled, and key takeaways contributing to the change within myself. I consider my regrets, failures, and how little money I have in my bank account now. All of which have contributed to my time abroad; an experience I wouldn’t change a thing about. I’m well aware that sharing how my time studying abroad changed my life can easily turn into a cheesy conversation, but if I had one piece of advice for those reading this and for those considering going down the path I did: embrace it, don’t compare it.
Comparison is a complicated thing that can make or break how one chooses to navigate self growth. Taking my personal experience with comparison, I am reminded of how often I found myself wishing away my youth so that I could grow up and travel the world. I’d observe social media influencers and celebrities and their picture-perfect posts of their time snorkeling with sea turtles or riding on the back of an elephant. All I could think about was the day I would be able to do the same. I soon found out how unrealistic it was for a middle schooler to idolize celebrities and their travels, when everyone around me was solving algebra equations.
When I grew older, I realized that viewing other people’s life through a screen will never give me the satisfaction of experiencing something fully, with all five senses. It wasn’t until I was given the opportunity to study abroad in London, England my sophomore year of college, that I was able to put it all to the test. I had no expectations, no friends, and no idea what I was getting myself into except that I was ready to experience London fully. And so I did. I saw the big red buses and the London Eye. I tasted hot tea and fish and chips. I heard ‘Mind the Gap’ and many English accents. I touched the ocean crashing against the White Cliffs of Dover. I smelt the city air and the rain after it showered.
When I think about who I was before I traveled 4,198 miles away to London, I judge myself for the little preparation and knowledge I had for the journey I was about to embark on. It wasn’t until I returned and reflected that I began to understand that comparison will always find a place in this world as long as human beings exist. It’s the active choice to use it as a tool for measuring how far you’ve come that changes everything. It changes how you approach new life experiences and your willingness to make mistakes because at the end of the day, nobody is perfect, not even the celebrities who convince you that they are. Embrace the messiness of being human and take it as an opportunity to grow. I could tell you every detail of my time in London, every person I met and grew close to, every place I traveled, or every food I tasted, but I’d rather let you experience it for yourself. Five senses and all.
Sophie Hamblen (BIS: Integrated Studies) spent the Spring 2023 semester studying abroad in London, England through KEI. Sophie had the following to say about studying abroad, “Spending my semester abroad in London has easily become one of the best decisions I made during my time at UTC. I would have never believed all the beautiful places I traveled or all the many people I met that each contributed to all the many memories made.”
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