Fair warning, this blog may get a little cheesy because it is more on the personal side. I did a fair amount of research before coming abroad, and it seemed everywhere people were telling me that I was going to find myself, or Pinterest articles telling me that studying abroad would change my life forever. I didn’t think that was true, or maybe it was true for some people, but I didn’t think I was the type to ‘find myself’. But it happened, and I didn’t even realize. I learned a lot about culture and history while I was travelling, but I also learned a lot about myself. I feel like deep down, I knew all these things already, I just was never given the opportunity to show my talents because a situation never came up or someone didn’t think I could so someone else did instead.
I am a different person when I travel than I am back home. I love the person I am when I travel, I feel like I am really ‘me’. As strange as it sounds, the scariest thing I will encounter on the entire study abroad experience is going home. However irrational it may sound to some, I worry that when I get back to Ottawa I will lose some of that. In any case, this is something I don’t have to worry about for another couple days. It will just be another challenge for me to overcome I suppose.
I like to plan, in fact I think most of the fun of travelling lies in the planning. I’ve never been a ‘go with the flow’ type person, but I sure became one when I was travelling. It was probably one of the least stressful two weeks of my life. Once I accepted that not everything was going to go exactly according to plan (cue me walking to the airport because there’s no public transport or mixing up my flight times) the trip became a lot more fun. I didn’t get upset if I didn’t get to see one of the attractions, I would go to another one. I didn’t get frustrated if the line was way too long, I found a way to entertain myself and avoid the stress of everything not going according to my plan.
I hate getting lost, I hated it before I came abroad and I still hate it. Much like my obsession with planning, I will often refuse to go somewhere unless I have a clear idea of where it is, or I am going with someone who does. Now going on this trip did not make me realize that being lost isn’t really a huge deal, it’s just an adventure. I still don’t enjoy it and I would take photos of maps and directions before leaving, but it didn’t bother me as much as it used it. I was able to laugh it off most of this time when I realized I was lost and then quickly find my way back to where I should be. So not a complete turnaround, but I think it was a step towards finding a balance of control and spontaneity.
I was able to pick up a language faster than I ever thought possible. I feel like I should point out, that I was nowhere close to being fluent in a language, but I was able to speak enough to get by. I feel like it’s become a running joke in my life that I have a strong French background, have taken French classes for 7 years and can still not speak the language very well. Basically all of my friends know it, and honestly it’s kind of a sour spot for me. I would love to be able to speak French, but I always thought that maybe languages weren’t for me. I guess once I was away from all the judgement and people knowing I couldn’t speak a language it became easier. I was able to pick up a few words in almost every city I was in, but when I was in Paris I barely spoke English outside my hostel. Granted all I needed to do was order food, ask for directions and make general small talk at museums and public transport, but I thought it was a huge accomplishment for me, and I am quite proud of myself.
This next one is a bit of a weird one. I’ve always been the type of person who loves to be alone, but also hates doing things alone. There have been way more occasions than I would like to admit that I have cancelled plans because I was the only one who was going to go. One of my biggest fears about going abroad is that I would have a hard time going out and doing things by myself. It wasn’t easy, but travelling solo doesn’t really give you much of a choice. Once I was outside and doing things I was excited about, it became really easy for me to want to go out, and by the end I was trying to find ways to go out without having other people come with me.
This was kind of a longer post, so thank you to anyone who read to the end! Like many of my posts, there are 100 more things I could add to this list, but I feel like these sum it up quite nicely. I really did learn a lot while I was travelling, and my goal is to take as much as I can of what I have learned and integrate it into my daily life back in Ottawa.