After an amazing semester in England, I am finally back in Fargo and gearing up for spring semester here at North Dakota State. No more flights, train trips or castle visits in my foreseeable future. The concept is at once both terrifying and reassuring.
Returning home at the end of a long trip is always a bit weird. I observe things I never noticed before, like how my house smells or how cold it is here (very cold).
Perhaps not so surprisingly, nothing has changed much since I left. Fargo feels pretty much the same as always.
The people I know have changed, not dramatically, but a little bit in their own ways. While I have been gone, they too have had new adventures and learned lessons. Part of me is sad that I missed so much of their lives and lost so much time with the ones I love.
But I have no regrets.
My semester abroad was more than just studying and traveling. I was on my own — truly on my own — in a whole other continent. I have done things that terrified me, and I survived. That being said, nothing particularly awful happened to me the entire trip. All my nightmares about being mugged or kidnapped, thankfully, did not come true.
Studying abroad is such a beneficial opportunity because it uproots you from everything you have ever known and puts you somewhere else where you eventually learn to live. It sounds so simple when someone tells you about it, but it is really a momentous concept.
Although you are in a new country, and probably do not know anyone, it does not take long to make friends. Being a study abroad student in itself almost guarantees that you will find friends instantly. Universities tend to group international students together, and it was with these wonderful people that I felt the most at home. Even though I went to England, I met people from across the globe: Australia, France, Cyprus and even people from around the U.S.
Everyone has similar worries and challenges, so banding together is a natural occurrence. It gives you a support network of people who can share their own experiences and advice with you, travel with you and even give you a shoulder to cry on when things go badly.
After going abroad myself, I cannot stress enough how much I think students at NDSU need to give this experience a chance. Do it for the credits, do it for the friends you will make, do it for the additive to your resume. But most importantly, do it to discover yourself.
You may find that the farther you go from home, the closer you become to yourself.