Hi everyone! My name is Elizabeth Whitmore, and I’ve finally returned from my adventures studying abroad in Scandinavia. Although my welcome home gift was a cold (if you couldn’t tell by my voice), the past 3 months abroad have been unforgettable. I met so many new people who became my best friends, interacted with instructors who didn’t just value my academic learning but personal development, and learned to be independent by living by myself in a foreign country.
Living abroad was both an exhilarating and bizarre experience. I felt like I was having a main character moment every time I got to experience something new, which was practically every day. From watching a summer ballet performance to visiting beautiful libraries and gardens scattered around the city, I was able to explore Stockholm and Copenhagen and feel like these cities were mine. But the logistics of living by myself abroad was something I needed to get used to, like buying ingredients of which I couldn’t read to make dinner and hoping for the best or being confused how a certain city’s public transportation worked. I am proud to say that I did eventually learn how to get around Stockholm and Copenhagen without depending on Google Maps, but I have to give my muscle memory some credit for that.
Of course, this trip’s main purpose was allowing me to study abroad, and thanks to my endearing and principled instructors, I was able to do just that. From learning how to make a card game to explain psychiatric disorders, to participating in a mock trial to argue the nature of consciousness, to making an online zine about the experiences of African Americans in Europe, I was able to display my proficiency of specific knowledge in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and sociology through a variety of mediums. I also had the opportunity to have field studies in a variety of museums, national landmarks, and even trips to different countries to talk to experts in the field and have a different perspective of the class topic.
If I had to sum up one single lesson from my time abroad, it would be that I value time to myself, and prioritizing my “me-time” would help me focus on my other priorities like my classes, homework, and maintaining a social life. Through living alone, I learned to enjoy my own company, so I started to intentionally make time for myself, whether that was taking time to read or explore on my own.
In doing so, I felt that I had more energy to be passionate about my other priorities. I didn’t feel strained or stressed. I didn’t feel like my “to-dos” were draining me. The existence of my deadlines and responsibilities didn’t go away; sometimes they multiplied. However, paying attention to my need to “re-charge” mentally enabled me to have a better work-life-school balance.
I know that maintaining this balance in the future is not going to be easy, especially since I have many more responsibilities outside the summer months. Nevertheless, my experiences abroad have taught me that being in tune with myself is crucial for the balance between all aspects of my life, in university and beyond.
I’m eternally thankful that I had the chance to live, study, and travel abroad this summer. This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my family, friends, instructors, mentors, donors, and other people who were put in my path to help me along the way. Although this chapter of my life is coming to a close, it is only a temporary farewell to Scandinavia. I’ll just remember to bring a stronger umbrella when I come back.
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