Why I Chose To Study Abroad For Four Years
(And not just because I can go to the beach in 30 degrees on any old Saturday)
When I tell people back home where I chose to attend university I get a similar reaction each time. First a look of shock, followed by intrigue and with the inevitable "well that's different.. why did you choose there?!".
It's a very good question, and not one I have an easy answer to.
The reason for the surprise is that I – a British twenty-something who grew up in the same, predominately white town in England her whole life – decided to up sticks and move to Abu Dhabi for my entire university experience.
I have never regretted my decision to move, although it's sometimes hard: my friends back home attend Russell Group universities and have a shared experience that is hard for me to relate to; if I want to just 'pop back' I have to get a seven hour flight; and there were many cultural adjustments I had to make.
Yet since I started at NYUAD I have received funding to live in Paris and New York, visited Nepal on a class trip and Morocco in my free time, and next year I have the opportunity to first visit India and then live in Ghana for four months. Gosh, on Thursday I am flying to Kazakhstan to talk to government officials for my policy class (stay tuned for the vlog!), how crazy is that?! As someone who loved to travel it's like all my dreams have come true, and sometimes I do have to pinch myself to believe it.
Beyond just visiting countries I have lived around so many cultures; my friends come from across the world, speaking a crazy amount of languages. The school itself loves to promote this fact at every available opportunity, but it shows itself to me in little ways. When a friend back home mentions a country, more often than not I will know someone who has lived there, world events become more meaningful when I see smiles or tears in the face of people I know, and I have fallen in love with people from four different continents. My heart is spread across the world and it makes me feel so much richer.
I'm not saying this to boast, but rather to encourage. I can't believe how much my life has changed in the past few years, but I came so close to not going. Fear, insecurity and self-doubt meant that I nearly never applied, thinking that it was pointless and would I really want to live abroad anyway? I was the kid who cried hysterically before going on camp, I couldn't cope with the homesickness of being on another continent! Were it not for two key people in my life who pushed me when I needed it, I would not be typing this blog post right now.
I urge anyone reading this to take the leap if the opportunity presents itself. I never thought myself the kind of person who could have lived abroad – I grew up proclaiming that I would live a street away from my mother – and now I am wrestling with which country I want to move to when I graduate. But I have grown so much more than I would have had I stayed in safety. Living in the same country is a great choice for a lot of people, but it wasn't the right one for me and I wouldn't have known that until I tried.
It reminds me of my favourite poem by Erin Hanson, one I say to myself when fear becomes crippling:
There is freedom waiting for you
On the breezes of the sky
And you ask "What if I fall?"
Oh but my darling what if you fly?
So why not try it? You might just fly.