Studying abroad is a great adventure, and a wonderfully intimidating one too. I have never left America before – in fact, I have only ever left the Midwest once. I have also never been on a plane, and I have never traveled any great distance without someone else in my company. Yes, going to a foreign country is a very scary thing indeed. And going to a foreign country that doesn’t speak my language is even scarier. Yet the adventurer inside me is just dying to go out and explore the world, so explore the world I will.
So, where will I go first? France. I can’t think of better way to begin my adventures than to go somewhere that does not speak English and to go entirely alone! Sound scary? Sure! Am I up for it? Of course! I have wanted to go to France for a very long time, so I am thrilled that I finally have the chance to go. Going to France will give me the opportunity to branch out and exercise my independence, and to stretch my communication skills. Honestly, the scariest part about going to France is the fact that I won’t always be around people who speak English. I am planning to go to the Vichy summer intensive French program, so I should hopefully still have some people around who speak English, but that is by no means guaranteed. And considering that I already have a hard time communicating in English, I am very worried about how I will possibly be able to communicate well in another language. But the experience will be good for me, and I know that I will certainly grow from it.
Why France? To study French of course. When I was little, my mom taught Spanish for a while, and both of my older siblings took Spanish in school. But I, in an effort to be different from my family, decided that I would rather learn French. That was honestly the only reason why I wanted to do it at first. My family learned Spanish, so I had to learn French because doing the same thing as everyone else would be boring. Then as I started learning French in high school, I realized that I had actually pick the right language to learn after all because French is a very common language to be spoken in the scientific fields, especially physics. After all, CERN (a giant particle accelerator… something that is super cool for physicists) is in Geneva, Switzerland, which both borders France and speaks French. So now I have two reasons for studying French: I can do something different from what my family did, and I can study a language that is useful in physics. It seems pretty perfect to me. Plus learning French has really helped with my communication skills in general. I am really not any good at expressing what I am trying to say in coherent sentences when I talk, and I am awful at thinking up answers on the spot. But somehow, learning another language has helped me overcome both problems, or at least to an extent. One of the most useful skills I have gained from learning another language is being able to “talking around the subject,” which basically means being able to describe what you are talking about even if you don’t know the word for it. Although I do use that in French quite often, I have found that I use it just as much in English as well. A lot of times while I am having a conversation, I will forget a certain word, so I have to “talk around it” until I remember what it is. It seems like a perfectly simple trick, but I never thought to use it before I started studying French.
Then where shall I go after that? England. In comparison to France, England seems like a much more comfortable place to study. For one, they (obviously) speak English there, which means that I will not have to try to overcome any language barrier. But going to England does present other challenges. I am planning to study there for a full academic year, which means that I will be away from home for far longer than I ever have before. On top of that, I will be studying at an actual English university (the University of Sheffield to be specific) with actual students from England. At least in France, I will be surrounded almost entirely by other international students, so I will be in the same boat as everyone else when it comes to knowing what to do. But when I am in England, almost all my classmates will be from England, so I will be the odd one out. That’s a little nerve wracking to me, knowing that I am going to be in an unfamiliar place and won’t necessarily be with other people in the same position as me. But the experience will be good for me, and I will again certainly learn from it. I suppose I will have to learn how to figure stuff out on my own eventually, so I might as well do it while I’m in a foreign country.
So why do I want to go to England so badly? Physics! Well, that and the fish and chips. Those are good too. But it’s mostly for the physics. I’ve already mentioned it quite a bit, but I really am extremely excited to be able to study in England. There will just be so much to learn, and so many new perspectives on the same topics I’ll have already been studying. Even though my trip is still a long way off, I am waiting in eager anticipation of what I might be able to accomplish there. If things work out the way I hope, and if I can really get some good connections through my professor who already graduated from there, then I should be able to do much more than the average exchange student could while I am there. What I really hope is that going abroad will improve my chances of being able to attend a good graduate school after college. It is a bit of a gamble because I am taking an extra year to graduate by studying abroad, but I am sure that the experience will be worth it. All in all, studying in England will be a wonderful opportunity for me to explore a new perspective, and that is what really matters to me.