Two Months Abroad- What I know for Certain Now

November 1st. Officially two months abroad and wow, it’s been eye opening. Not necessarily in the positive, stereotypical light that one would expect during their study abroad journey, but one that is still slightly positive. However, this trip so far has proven to be the most difficult thing for me to accomplish in my life thus far, mostly because this experience has pushed me out of my comfort zone in so many ways. Managing my expenses, doing all my homework on time and to the best of my ability, and trying to make the most of being abroad while still maintaining my sense of self is overwhelming, so overwhelming that in the course of two months, my need to go home is immense.

Before I left, around the middle of May, I got a knot in my stomach every time I thought about going to Ottawa. I just couldn’t even imagine myself living abroad by myself (not even any acquaintances from DU) and being able to have a decent experience. It was so great that I even considered pulling the plug on the application. But my parents and friends insisted that I go on this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, to which I agreed, and buried my fears under a strong, artificial confidence that I broadcasted to everyone asking about my upcoming travels. As soon as I stepped in the airport, a few minor suitcase mishaps occurred and the next minute I was crying in the middle of the airport with both of my parents consoling me. It wasn’t over a dumb suitcase mishap, it was because I was going abroad and it was too late to pull out.

From the moment I left the airport, I tried to be strong and enjoy my experience. There were (and probably will be) some positive moments in my experience. Walking around Ottawa on my own time and seeing all my surroundings is fun. Eating poutine, my new local comfort food, for lunch every Friday has become my weekly routine. The occasional trips that the International Office conducts are interesting, too. But, other than that, this experience has been pretty tough for me so far at many different angles. I like the school part of UOttawa, meaning that my classes are fascinating to attend, but I think I ultimately chose the wrong timeframe and program. I think I would be better off doing a summer term program, where it is a little shorter. A fall semester is long, compared to the fall quarter at DU. Time goes by so slowly here and for me, it’s awful. I also don’t think I, as a person, am cut out for studying abroad. I get nervous traveling to a new part of Denver, why would I even bother going to a foreign city?

But I did, and I’m here, trying to make the best of this situation I put myself in. That, in itself, is the moral of my post: if you have any knots within your stomach, pay attention to them! Do what is best for you and not what other people think! Studying abroad is a great experience and one could look at it as a realization of sorts. Had I not come abroad, I would have never realized how difficult it was for me, thus determining how I will handle these experiences and travel differently in the future. So, study abroad was worthwhile for me, in that capacity. But it also taught me to trust my gut from the get go. There was a reason there seemed to be a billion knots in my stomach prior to me leaving. I wished I would’ve paid attention to that.

My ultimate goal is to finish my classes strong and start getting my belongings packed for my departure. I still have six-ish weeks left until I leave, but it’s never too early to start sorting through stuff to make the packing easier during finals.

I don’t know when I’ll write a new post, maybe when I leave in a few weeks. We’ll see. . . until next time!

 

 

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Introverts and Studying Abroad

I am a shy and anxious person. I prefer being quiet in class and spend my downtime between classes eating by myself in the cafes. I like getting my chai latte or iced mocha and doing homework in solitude, listening to calm music with headphones.

I am indeed an introvert and keep my circle of friends very close to me. It takes me awhile to get comfortable in new situations and around new people. Studying abroad was an odd choice for me because embarking on such a huge journey was a shock to my comfort zone. I am way out of my comfort zone, which is nerve racking, but impressive all in the same. However, being a new situation, especially in a new college that promotes social activities within housing, your academic department, may be something that is too much to handle. It is for me, especially being in a new situation.

From my journey so far, here are some tidbits of advice for maintaining your introversion abroad.

  1. It’s okay not to go to parties, socials, etc., There are plenty of social gatherings within my housing, English department, the International Office, and all around campus. It may seem overwhelming at first to want to go to the events and try to “fit in” and talk to people. Getting to know people is fun and it is a great way to network, however, if you have trouble in large crowds (like me), evaluate yourself before you go out to the gathering. Do you actually want to go to this event? Is there someone you know there? Is there anything that you could be doing instead of going to this event? Often times, I skip out on events because I have homework or I’m not interested in the event. These are all valid reasons and no one should try and force you to go to something. This is YOUR study abroad experience and you can make it into whatever you want.
  2. It’s okay to do things by yourself. I have fond memories of myself during freshmen year freaking out that I couldn’t get dinner because no one would go with me. People have different schedules and times to hang out. If you want to do something, don’t let the stigma of being alone stand in your way of exploring your surroundings.  For me, I like to visit the city around me on my own time and by myself. You may be missing out on the city around you waiting for other people.
  3. Make your space your own. I do spend a lot of time in my dorm reading, writing, and watching Netflix. Feel free to dress up your dorm in things that makes you feel happy and secure. I have my favorite blanket with me to keep my comfortable and warm. Things like pictures of friends and family or any decorations that make your space a visual representation of you can definitely turn your dorm into a sanctuary of sorts.

This experience has been an interesting one for me so far. I have 67 days left, which is seven full weeks and one week off. The time here is starting to speed up and frankly, I cannot wait to come home.

Till next time!