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International Center

University of Missouri

Inner self abroad

by Alexis H.

What makes a “cliche” cliche is the repetitiveness. Society would only collectively repeat the same message if it were true. So, like those people, I will present to you a cliche: studying abroad has changed my life. Not because I suddenly have super specific world knowledge or have endured jet lag or because I have practiced patience with the language barrier, but I have grown up. As an only child, I grew up fairly independent. I never had an issue attending restaurants or events alone and never required much assistance. However, I was provided a huge mental safety net that was abruptly stripped away during study abroad. Sure, the support continues to exist, but from an ocean away with seven hours in between, I was forced to cope with being my own mental safety net. Losing the safety net, for those lucky enough to have one in the first place, can come early, late, slowly or all at once.

Disclaimer: “Losing the safety net” does not insinuate that studying abroad is dangerous. My experience has been filled with an extremely caring host family, friends who are eager to buddy up for the late walk home and kind strangers.

Let me explain my first encounter with the voided safety net.

I came to Alicante, Spain, at the tail end of my recovery from misaligned hips. With proper stretching and recovery time, there would not have been an issue. However, moving to a city where walking is the primary mode of transportation and the weather is too beautiful to relax inside, my hips quickly slipped to their former position. In the States, I would have sprawled in the assurance of my safety net, “You will be able to walk without pain in no time!” and “My friend had great results with this physical therapist.” Abroad, I had to dig into myself for those soothing comments when the time difference did not allow a quick call home and really leaned on Google to find a reputable physical therapist.* This was not my first time organizing my own medical appointments, scheduling payments or any of that; but it was my first time going through the process unable to check my steps.

I was nervous my instincts would fail me on whether I had chosen a good physical therapist. I felt anxious that I would not find relief until I returned home five months later. On the late nights when I could not call my family for a moment to vent without waking up my host family (our walls are thinner than paper), I practiced self-awareness. I reflected on my life in Spain and acknowledged my gratitude for simply living abroad. I learned to turn to myself in desperate times. Studying abroad has provided unforgettable interactions with people, art, music and food, but the best unforeseeable benefit has been connecting with my inner self.

Being abroad provides unlimited time. Sure, one will travel, explore downtown and take classes, but starting in a new city with little knowledge or friendship evokes independent ventures. This immense time has restored my perspective on how to turn my current life into the life I wish to lead. I have the freedom, in a city of new relationships, to break the chains from my old habits and practice those that belong to the woman I am becoming.

So, the saying is as cliché as it is true: studying abroad has changed my life.

*Note from the International Center

If you find yourself needing to see a medical professional abroad, know that the International Center is here to help you, along with our onsite partners and GeoBlue insurance.

About the blogger

Alexis H. is studying abroad on the Universidad de Alicante: ALI Abroad program in Alicante, Spain.

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