Long before I applied for colleges, I yearned to travel. While I was drawn to Juniata College by its community feel, beautiful campus, and flexible POE program, an important factor in my decision to attend the school was the excellent study abroad opportunities it offers. With the help of my academic advisor, I chose from the many countries and schools with which Juniata is connected. Now, as a junior I am studying at the University of Leeds in England and fulfilling my dream to travel.
Studying abroad is a life-changing experience. While the pre-study abroad meetings that occurred during the semester before I departed were essential and extremely helpful, there was nothing that could prepare me for the reality of studying abroad. Coping with culture shock, missing my family and friends, and acclimating myself to city life and a university with a student population nearly twenty times larger than Juniata’s were all issues that I could not previously understand. Amidst the struggle to cope though, I found new people, new places, and a new sense of self that could only be gained through study abroad.
Once I adjusted to living in England and attending class for only six hours a week, I began to travel with my roommates. The public transportation in England makes its beauty and history easily accessible. My roommates and I have spent weekends in Scotland and Germany and have taken day trips to many places including Bath, Oxford, and London. Less than two months ago, I stood before Stonehenge marveling at a man-made miracle I thought I would only ever see on a screen. In Berlin I touched history when I visited a site where part of the Berlin Wall still stands. As a Museum Studies and Art History major, I have spent countless hours strolling through museum exhibits and gazing upon masterpieces by artists such as Manet, Rothko, Ernst, Dali, Rodin, and others.
Despite the importance of these experiences, the life lessons I have learned while abroad are the greatest benefit of this program. I have set my own budget, carried groceries for miles, and dealt with the consequences of my professors striking for nearly a month. I have learned to plan ahead, manage bus and train schedules, ask strangers for directions, and laugh at myself for foolish mistakes. I have opened up to the once strangers who also live in my flat from Chicago, Holland, and Australia, and they have become some of the closest friends I will ever make. I have figured out the importance of family and community in my life and in the process learned that I have a strong support system at Juniata and at home even though I am an ocean away.
Studying abroad is as much a way to discover yourself as it is an opportunity to discover a new part of the world. It is an educational experience that cannot be measured in credits or dollars. I know it will be one of the greatest lessons I carry with me after graduation from Juniata College.