Art by Xander Hayes
I still can’t believe that freshman year is already over, and I am days away from starting my sophomore year in Lausanne, Switzerland. As I start to pack for this upcoming year, I think about what it was like nearly one year ago when I was just shopping at Target, finding the perfect bedspread, figuring out wall decorations for my dorm and preparing myself for the next four years. I realize now that the person who got into the car almost 12 months ago and drove up Pacific Coast Highway is a completely different person than the one who is about to board a plane to Switzerland.
Over the summer I studied abroad at the Florence house for two months. This experience was unforgettable — from falling down stairs as we ran to catch the next train to trying to speak the local language and epically failing — I loved every minute of it. The memories I made while studying abroad in Florence will always remain close to my heart, but the truly transformational moments were the most difficult. Inevitably there were disagreements, drama and completely malfunctioning moments (like forgetting to buy the train ticket until 10 minutes before it departed), but the way we handled the conflicts determined our abroad experience.
As I prepare for my upcoming life in Lausanne for eight months, I know that I will change. This time I know I will change differently; I will grow in parts of my life that I did not think needed development. This can be scary because all change can be scary, but I know it’ll be OK. Whether you believe in God or not, there is a plan for everybody’s life and every choice. Each little choice changes our future.
We are now in control of our future, our decisions and our life choices. Our choices change us; they develop us. Studying abroad is about change. It is about opening your mind to the world around you and not only discovering the world but yourself. The change you encounter abroad is necessary to become the person you are meant to be.
It is the ultimate changing experience you can have in college. Everyone I know talks about how studying abroad changes them and “this one time abroad …” But the parts that change us the most when we study abroad are the ones we weren’t expecting. The ones that are sometimes the smallest choices we make, like picking a random item off the menu you can’t read and hoping for the best only to discover the most amazing foods. The little things. Those are the ones that make up your experience abroad. Late nights talking with those around you, getting lost in the rain in Venice, staying in a hostel that has a pool, bar, restaurant and grocery store but managing to freeze your butt off, or frantically running around Rome hoping to get tickets to see the Pope. Those moments change you the most and stay with you forever. For me though, that journey has barely just begun.
I am excited for Lausanne to the point where I can hardly describe it in these 800 words. I am excited for experiencing seasons. I am excited for the new friends I will make. I am excited for the nights we randomly choose to make our own. I am excited for the missed trains, the language barrier and the inevitable mistakes I will make. I am excited for it all.
I’m also hesitant. I am scared that when I come back nothing will be the same because I am not the same. I know that I will miss my family, my friends and the delicious acai bowls from SunLife. I am nervous that I will miss it all too much. But I am also scared that I will miss Switzerland even more when I come back.
Then again, I want that. I want to miss Switzerland because I poured myself into my abroad experience, because I was open-minded. I wasn’t hesitant, I wasn’t worried, I wasn’t scared — I was in the moment. I was putting my entire soul into where I was — into understanding, exploring and discovering the world around me. Even myself.
So, as I get ready to head to Switzerland, I am ready for the mistakes, the hesitations, the worries, the excitement and most importantly I am ready for the change. I am ready to embrace life, to develop, to grow, to experience. I am ready to see the world, understand it and change with the world around me. I want those I meet on the street to affect me, to make me understand just a little bit more about a different culture. I hope this change will allow me to be open to a new world. I will strive for change more than ever because it pushes me to grow. It will make me experience, develop and love. It will make Switzerland a place that I can call home.
Follow the Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic