After studying abroad in spring 2021, I no longer recognize myself in old photos. Six months ago I was not the same person. A lot of people in my life told me to wait until COVID-19 cases went down and more places would be open. But I saw from the pandemic that we have to take advantage of our opportunities when we have them, or we blink and then they’re gone.
Students were considered essential travelers in Prague and were some of the only foreigners in the city. There were no tourists and many places were closed. Most of my time was spent walking the streets and visiting different parks. Students studying abroad in Europe normally travel to surrounding countries, but I couldn't even leave the city.
I don’t regret my decision for a minute. Because I could not leave the city, I got to know the people and the place on a much more intimate level. I walked hundreds of miles and ate dozens of meals with other students I met. They were on the same page as me in a way I’ve never experienced before because we were all brave enough to follow our dreams when we did. We came from different countries, backgrounds, traditions, families, but we were all in the same headspace.
I gained intercultural understanding from my friends in a way I never could have in a classroom. I also had to step out of my comfort zone and take initiative in my friendships. My time in Prague was limited, so I was not just going to wait for experiences to happen to me. The more I learned from my friends and what I am capable of, the more confident and empowered I became. That’s why I don’t recognize my old self anymore.
If I had waited to study abroad, I would not have the most amazing lifelong friends that I do now, nor understand the strength of my will. I encourage everyone to travel and experience themselves cross-culturally because you will learn and grow exponentially. You just have to go.