Thursday, May 17, 2012

Looking Back

It has been a year since my experiences abroad. Looking back it seems like yesterday I was traveling Europe! It makes me sad to think that my time there is now in my past, and not my present. I learned big life lessons in those four months that I could not have learned had I stayed in the United States...

Independence: I arrived to the London Center on January 4, 2011. I had never traveled internationally before, so the 12 hour flight, train and taxi ride was quite an eye opening experience. I arrived and it was completely dark at 2pm, because it was the dead of winter in London. I carried my suit cases up four flights of stairs and claimed by little bunk bed that existed in a room of a dozen other girls. Then it hit me. I was spending the next four months of my life with 38 other strangers, in a country that seemed worlds away from my life back at home. I was completely alone.

This experience was a leap of faith. I got to know those other 39 people and shared memories and moments in amazing places. Those experiences will not be shared in the same way with anyone I left back at home, and it is a bond that will like the 39 of us together forever.

I learned to travel internationally to six other countries, avoid scary situations, learn outside the classroom, and be far away from the world I had known for 19 years. Yes, I learned to be independent.

The True Source of Comfort: Because I was experiencing these new places and people all the time and my daily life was different all the time, nothing seemed to be consistent. I don't think I prayed more than I did in those four months. I learned how to call upon the Spirit and relied on my Heavenly Father for everything. I learned that even though I felt alone, in reality, I never was. My Heavenly Father and Savior were watching over me the whole time.

This is something that I have taken with me and applied to my life, even back home. Though I have been back in a world that is comfortable and that I know well, I realized that I needed the Spirit in different ways, but just as much. I realized that the gospel is the same everywhere, and I have a greater relationship with my Father in Heaven because of my time abroad.

Who I am: Studying abroad was an opportunity to step back and look at who I was, and who I wanted to become. We were placed in so many different situations, and I got to really assess how I felt and the way I reacted in those different situations. I got to reflect on things as little as my eating preferences or my stress levels in traveling, to my faith and testimony of Jesus Christ. Seeing who I was became two fold: I understood more of who I am as a person, and the things I wanted to change in order to better myself. It was truly a time of growth. Everything was a reflection of me.

39 students, 3 professors, 2 directors, 7 countries, 9 shows, countless bus, train and airplane rides, 3 1/2 months, 14 weeks, 99 days, 2,376 hours, 142,560 minutes, 8,553,600 seconds... one incredible semester!