What I Learned by Michelle Taylor

To any future study abroad students I would say the very cliche phrase: don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. You are going abroad to learn new things and have experiences you can’t have here in the States. That being said, having ties to home helped me a lot. I would set aside time each weekend to call home and I brought a couple of mementos from home with me so I would have some familiar things. It really helped me to not feel alone in a new country where everything seemed different from people’s accents to the food to my sheets. As far as preparing for my future career, I certainly became more independent. Many of my friends were British or Irish so they couldn’t always help me with my problems as they were unique to study abroad students. I also got used to figuring things out. I wanted to go to the city center, so I had to figure out how to use the bus system. It did take some trial and error, but I succeeded. I figured out how to grocery shop most effectively so I only had to go once a week, but I could still carry everything back to my residence myself. And I learned how to let go of my stereotypes and subvert the ones others had about me. Stereotypes may exist for a reason but not everyone is going to fit into them, so they aren’t worth holding onto. As far as other people are concerned, if you act like a genuine and polite person, they will generally let go of their stereo types too. Not all Americans are brash and loud. This is helpful for my future career because I have learned to judge people on their own merit and actions rather than what other people or the world would tell me to think about them. I am proud of how I was able to overcome challenges while abroad. The semester was very tough on my mental health, but I was able to lean on my family and the support system I built at Queen’s. Even on the really hard days, I would get up the next morning and decide that I wouldn’t let the mistakes of the previous day taint the next one. It didn’t always work but I was able to push myself and overcome some situations that weren’t entirely within my comfort zone which was something I said I wanted to do. I did successfully join the crew team, but I have not met some of my other goals. My program is a year long so I am looking forward to meeting those goals in the upcoming semester. I knew that the rest of the world had stereotypes about Americans, I just didn’t realize how pervasive they are. It made my place in the world seem somewhat predefined. I also realized just how much people don’t know about one another. We have the things we see in movies and on the news, but we really don’t know much of anything about each other. It’s a bit of a crazy thing to realize and think about. I would certainly like to go abroad in the future whether at the College of Charleston or in my future career. There is a very large world out there I would like to learn more about.

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