Rosa Nguyen ‘21, Business Administration and Psychology double-major, participated in a fall 2019 semester abroad program in Glasgow, Scotland.
Bundled up in layers of warm wool sweaters and worn water-resistant gear, our group of 20 students and a handful of staff paddled out in our kayaks. The shore faded into the mist behind us, with seemingly nothing ahead for miles. Eerily silent, our guide paddled on while we followed obediently behind. Suddenly, we heard his voice echo – “Welcome to Loch Tay”. Slowly, the mist broke and in front of us was Scotland in all of its glory. There was nothing that could have prepared me for the absolute vastness of the lake. In the background, we saw S’ron A’ Chlachain, where only yesterday, we pushed our bodies against heavy rain and slippery mud to summit the mountain. In the foreground, we got a clearer view of the murky water, which lightly lapped against the side of our kayaks. Spotting the mountains, there were tranquil looking houses on large pieces of property dotted with goats and cows. In that moment, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. Surrounded by new friends and unfamiliar surroundings, I thought about how in just one month, my study abroad trip has fundamentally shifted my identity paradigm.
“Surrounded by new friends and unfamiliar surroundings, I thought about how in just one month, my study abroad trip has fundamentally shifted my identity paradigm.”
I am the type of person that plans a vacation down to the minute. Usually, I know exactly what I will be doing at a specific time on any given day. That’s just who I’ve always been. Yet, no matter how hard you try, you cannot plan life down to the minute (believe me, I’ve tried). While previously that would have given me some anxiety, living and traveling in a foreign country built in me not only a tolerance but a craving for the unexpected. Some of my fondest memories were unplanned. Hungry and cold, I slipped into a random crowded restaurant in Barcelona and ended up sitting next to someone for three hours, just speaking about our careers and passions for travel, when suddenly she offered to pay for my meal! Wandering around Venice, I stumbled upon a local glass store where I bought the most beautiful pair of pink earrings that I’ve ever seen. In Glasgow, I could not even describe the amount of times I’d found a cute coffee shop on a whim. These memories are close to my heart not only because they make me happy but because they are significant moments where I learned more about what I am capable of.
One of the most transformative ideas that I’ve adopted in college is the growth mindset. It emphasizes that you should celebrate what you’ve done while also focusing your efforts on what you can do in the future. It’s giving yourself a pat on the back while also working hard to become even better. When I returned home and the adrenaline of being abroad began to wear off, I thought back to many of my experiences and was surprised by how much I had learned in just those four months. Yet, my study abroad experience did not end when I got back. All of those lessons and memories will be carried with me everyday, to be reflected on, to be learned from and to be cherished.
“…go with YOUR gut… [and] take the chance to enjoy the process.”
I hope that you, the reader and potentially a study abroad applicant, will keep a couple of things in mind as you embark on your own journey of growth. One, go with YOUR gut. When I was choosing where to study abroad, there were a lot of people around me encouraging Prague because it was the new, upcoming city. People suggested London even more, saying that business majors should go somewhere that they could network easily. Yet, I just knew that I wanted to go to Scotland and that it would be the best place for me. Two, I hope that you take the chance to enjoy the process. Be proud of yourself for taking that step to learn more about study abroad. Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how big or small, whether it be finding a good deal on a round-trip ticket to Poland for the weekend or getting recognized by your professor for an outstanding essay. The anxiety of leaving for four months, the anticipation of meeting your roommates for the first time, the disappointment of a trip not going the way you want it to? Those emotions are all equally valid and essential to creating a more empathetic, open-minded you! Let yourself feel all of those emotions and know that each and every one of the students on this trip with you have most likely felt them as well. It is my greatest hope that you will also be able to experience the same pride in yourself and excitement about life through your study abroad experience!
Rosa participated in the Arcadia University semester abroad program at the University of Glasgow. You can check out this program and others on the Global Gateway. Students apply two semesters in advance for all semester abroad programs.