Being abroad I have done and learned so much; maybe not more knowledge-wise than I would have in a semester at Oberlin, but definitely more life-experience-wise. I was not someone who always planned to go abroad. I thought it was an incredible fantasy, but maybe just not for me. So for anyone who is on that fence of will-they or won't-they study away, here are things I did this past semester that I absolutely never believed would happen. Let it inspire you!
1. Travel. It's a cliché but it's one for a reason. Six months ago I didn't even have a passport. Today I've been to London, Leicester, Bicester, Dover, and Deal in England; Edinburgh and Stirling, Scotland; Waterford, Tramore, and Cork, Ireland; Copenhagen, Denmark; Paris, France; and Amsterdam, Edam, Marken in the Netherlands.
2. Become a more critical person. It is one thing to study isms in rural Oberlin classrooms; it is another to see them play out in a global city. Both of their pros and both should be experienced. Having a city be your study space allows you to immerse yourself in concepts, witness theory play out in front of you, and engage with the material you study in a way that isn't possible when you sit at a desk.
3. Live in a major city + have an apartment (or flat) in college. One thing I do not get enough of in the dorms is time and space to myself. It is so nice to have a living room, a bathroom, a cozy little place all your own. It doesn't hurt when that spot is in central London, either.
4. Walk fifteen miles in a day. Shoutout to the time I walked from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower at dusk in Paris. I hope to never again complain about the distance between South and the Science Center.
5. Fall in love again. Studying abroad pushes and stretches you in ways that aren't possible when you remain in your comfort zone. I have learned a lot about myself this semester, and I have also genuinely changed a lot. Being in a totally new context has transformed me in so many ways. I never really thought I would have another serious relationship, but I was wrong. It may not be your romantic entanglements, but I can pretty much promise that studying abroad will change your life in some drastic/dramatic ways.
6. Know obscure facts about a city that isn't in the Midwest. Knightrider Street has been called so for 2,000 years. The Great Fire of 1666 started on Pudding Lane. William Hogarth included dogs in engravings to represent the animality of London. Studying things that never would have caught my interest in Oberlin has been really beneficial. And obscure facts about ancient London are always handy when starting a conversation over a pint.
7. Drink in a pub older than my country. (The pub in question was Sheep's Heed in Edinburgh, and it was founded in the fourteenth century AND it had a two hundred year old bowling alley in its basement!)
8. Put myself in an arrestable position at a protest. I had the honor of being a part of a Migrants' Rights protest this semester. Myself and two fellow Obies, one of whom went on the Border Studies study abroad program and one who was visiting me from his study abroad program in Copenhagen, along with 200 other brave folks, lay ourselves down in front of Westminster to demand action to stop deportations and provide aid so that thousands do not continue to die trying to cross into the European Union. I had no idea what public demonstration laws were in the U.K., what to do if a police officer approached me, where my closest embassy was, or what my mother would think; but I did know that Migrant Lives Matter and that studying the trauma and pain and joy and triumph of migration narratives made it so I needed to shout about injustices, and I knew that even if the law wasn't on my side what was right was.
9. Have a real balance between schoolwork and living my life. Many study abroad programs have less rigorous academics because they factor in being in a new place as a part of your experiential learning. This served me so well in London as I was really able to enjoy the city. I had time to go explore bakeries and see plays and take baths this semester. Not once was I in a library until midnight hunched over a book. It was really, truly wonderful.
10. Make a new corner of the world my home. We talk a lot about the Oberlin bubble, and I think I managed to pop it this semester (to a certain extent). It felt good to exist outside of my small Ohio collegiate space and to see what my life could feel like out there in the "real world." I think all of what I did abroad has prepared me to return to Oberlin full force and in good spirits next semester, and I can't wait to do so with a head full of memories made during my time across the pond.