Looking back on my time abroad, it almost doesn’t even feel real.
Did that really happen? Did I actually live in Scotland for four months? A brand new country where I didn’t know a soul? Where I wasn’t able to see my family and friends for a whole season?
Yeah, I actually did that.
I’m about to start back at Hope again in a few days, and I honestly feel like a completely different person. I’m returning having experienced four months of new accents, foods, adventures… and I don’t know how I’m going to put it into words for people. I’m moving into my first apartment. I’m going to have to cook for myself for the first time. I’m about to finish my second to last year, and yet, I know I can do it because I’ve conquered my Scottish semester.
That’s the thing that’s really different. Things aren’t as scary to me anymore… or rather, I have something I can tell myself when I do get scared. For example, I recently met my new boyfriend’s friends over break. I was so incredibly nervous about making a good impression… I honestly didn’t know how I wasn’t going to be my normal awkward self. However, I thought that whole time, “Becky, you studied abroad in SCOTLAND. This should be a cake walk.” And it was compared to my international semester. I’ve made it through the worst homesickness ever and come out of it a better cultured, more mature person. Bring on scariness of growing up!
I also feel like I’m a more empathic person, which is something I struggled with before. Seeing more of God’s world changes you. You interact with people that are just so unlike you. This even became apparent when meeting other people from the States that were studying abroad in Aberdeen. I got to go outside of Hope’s “Christian Bubble” for a semester and experience what the “Real World” is like. At times, this was really hard. I had to look harder for people who shared my beliefs, would hold me accountable, and could talk about Jesus with me. However, those who didn’t share my faith made great impacts on me. Through them, I learned how to better evangelize and how to quietly nudge people towards Jesus. Also, I learned how to just be a better listener. That’s a lesson I desperately needed.
I also learned that it’s okay to be alone. Before this adventure, I had serious FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. Not all of that has gone away, but I actually spent a lot of time alone in Aberdeen and loved it. It helped that I had my own dorm room. Taking breaks from people allowed me to have times for reflection. I also became comfortable with walking around the city by myself, and I look back on my solo adventures and smile. I definitely will need to carve out more alone time at Hope.
Overall, though, I don’t know how anyone could ever think that studying abroad is a bad idea. I’m sure I’ve learned lessons from my Scottish semester that I haven’t even realized yet. Like I said, it’s still hard to even fathom that it happened. If you’re debating on taking the leap and traveling abroad, go for it! You won’t regret it.