Since I started my college search in high school, I’ve known I would study abroad. I’ve looked forward to forging an entirely new, adventurous life, embarking on an adventure of self-reliance and travel, more than anything.
Since I’ve started officially narrowing down programs, the reality of my upcoming adventure and the logistical gymnastics to make it happen has been thrilling, challenging, blissful, terrifying, exciting, stressful, and promising.
The first greatest lessons of this process thus far: listen to yourself.
For years, I wanted to go to Spain; I studied the language to an almost fluent level in high school, and wanted to maintain it by studying there, since I was unable to take it on as a minor. But, after really listening to my inner voice and allowing the nagging, subconscious hesitancies to come into clear view, I admitted to myself that if not for the language, I would not choose to live in Spain. I separated myself from that long anticipated, assumed plan. I broadened my possibilities, and allowed my intuition to pull me to a place that I wanted to make home for half of a year.
After I made this decision, my sister convinced me to pursue Paris, where she would be studying at the same time. The idea of living in the heart of France, a world capital, with my sister just across the city, was thrilling. I poured all my energy into finding the perfect program for me, and completely set my heart on finding one–
Lesson number two: Be flexible.
I couldn’t. No matter where I looked, the hours I spent, the people I spoke to, there simply was not a program that was doable for me (and believe me, I fought this fact. Hard.). After feeling crushed and defeated, again, my decision compromised and my seemingly solid and definite plans destroyed, I had to dust myself off, again, get up, again, clear my mind, again, and follow my gut.
I thought I would feel bitter and disillusioned, but (and let me really drive this home), I have never felt more free, excited, and independent. I thought I had felt all the anticipation and eagerness I could, but realizing that I now had a completely clean slate, beholden to no language and no person, I could literally just scroll through cities, point to one, and say yes.
I highly recommend emulating the way I approached this step: I found a program that fit all of my financial and academic needs first, and then chose a city they offered (the list was extensive), instead of getting my heart set on a city and not being able to find a program there. I narrowed it down to three, listened to my gut, talked to my family (and listened to their intuition, as well; they knew which city was the most “me”), and settled, to my complete delight, on Prague, Czech Republic.
The logistical process of applying and fulfilling all requirements is essential, and requires almost all of your focus and dedication. It cannot be neglected or procrastinated. But, if you can manage that in a responsible way, you and your goals are the most important part of this process. Do not forget to listen to yourself, your wants, and your intuition. You are making a home; choose one that lights you up.