One of my favorite quotes is “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Throughout my college career I have found myself truly taking this message to heart. When I first left my hometown of Grandville, Michigan to move to EMU, I was taking a step out of my comfort zone. When I accepted a position as a Resident Advisor, I took yet another step outside of my safe place. Over and over in my college experience I have always challenged myself to see what the world has to offer outside of my comfort zone and in return I have gained priceless experiences and life lessons.
Studying abroad was always something I dreamed of as a college student. To travel the world, meet new people, and learn in a new place was the most frightening and exciting thought I could imagine. When I finally committed to study in London this summer it was so much more than a step outside of my comfort zone – it was a 4,000 mile flying leap away from home and everything that I knew best.
The University of North Carolina – Charlotte (UNCC) offered a program that studied international public relations through classroom lectures and site visits around the city of London. As a public relations and communication double major, it was perfect for me! After applying to be a guest student in their program, sorting out flights and finding scholarships, I landed here in London a few weeks ago and will be living and learning in this marvelous city until the end of June!
Having the opportunity to study abroad has been the most incredible blessing, and I have learned so much both specifically within the field of public relations, but also about the other cultures and countries that I’ve been given the opportunity to immerse myself in. If you are interested in studying abroad or want to know a little bit more about the study abroad experience, here’s six ways that studying abroad has enhanced my education as an Eastern Eagle:
- I’ve gained a new sense of independence – I already was independent in some capacity before traveling to London, however, having to fly to a new country on my own, book my flights and hostels for traveling around Europe and figure out how to navigate major city all taught me new lessons in independence that I may have never learned had I just stayed back in Michigan throughout my entire educational career.
- Confidence really is key – I flew to London without knowing my UNCC classmates or professor. There is something a little nerve-racking about getting off of a plane onto an unfamiliar continent looking for people you’ve never met before. However, with a lot of courage and some confidence I not only found myself getting comfortable in my new place quite quickly, I’ve also made friends that I know I’ll have for a lifetime.
- Education is different for everyone – Every single one of my classmates has gained something a little different from this study abroad experience. There really isn’t one blanket thing that everyone learns from studying abroad, but everyone will gain something (or a lot of things). Whether I’m comparing my experiences with my friends here in London, or we are comparing our public relations curriculum’s from back home, each one of us has a very unique collegiate experience, and we can use those differences to learn from each other.
- I’ve gained new insights from new places – London is a beautifully diverse city. Studying abroad has helped me to see just how small my corner of the world is, and how important it is to see outside of my little place on the Earth and think globally about everything in my life.
- Live in the moment and take it all in – Whether I am in London or using my weekends to travel to other countries, I’ve realized that it’s easy to get caught up in trying to get the best picture or let the social media world know where you are at that moment, but that’s not what studying abroad is about. Studying abroad is about seizing the day and taking in each moment and using it to help you grow and learn as a young adult and a student.
- People support you in everything you do – Because I was a guest student to UNCC I was given support by their study abroad office, as well as our study abroad office at EMU, during my preparations to study in London. There’s a lot that goes into taking your studies abroad, and between these two offices, the Honors College, my family and my friends, I had a wonderful support team who encouraged me throughout the entire process. Even as I continue to live and learn over here, I am greeted with loving messages and support from back home. I’ve never doubted the love that my family and friends have for me, but there is something truly magnificent about seeing that love literally span beyond boarders.
Wherever I go in life, I know that I will always encourage students to study abroad, or people to travel to new countries in general. Studying abroad has given me, and many other students, new perspectives on cultures and education. In my program, we have the opportunity to tour global public relations agencies and meet professionals from our field who can speak to the challenges and rewards that come with working on a global scale. These opportunities have helped me fall more in love with my majors, and my travel opportunities have helped me gain a bigger appreciation for the cultures and opportunities that are present in other areas of the globe. Getting outside of my comfort zone and into this study abroad experience has enhanced my education in a truly priceless way, and I will forever be thankful for the opportunities and lessons that have come with my time here in London.
Andrea is a Junior and is a double major in PR and communications! You can follow her adventures by visiting her personal blog!