When I first began my Study Abroad year, I knew it would be a year I would never ever forget. Here was my chance to meet new people, study in different colleges, and explore new countries. What I did not realise was how much I would also learn about myself. Studying abroad has not only opened me to new opportunities and chances, it has also opened my understanding of myself and my capabilities. It has been without a doubt one of the most difficult yet rewarding challenges I could ever hope to experience.
My Study Abroad year started at Roanoke College, Virginia. I’d chosen this particular college without any real extensive research; I’d found it difficult to grasp what any of the colleges or universities would really be like from an Internet page so I had decided to just go with my gut. All I knew was that I wanted to go to somewhere in America that the average tourist wouldn’t necessarily choose. I’ve been lucky enough to go to New York twice before, and I come from London. so I felt that it would be interesting to visit not just a different country but a different pace of life, and this was my main motivation in choosing Roanoke College.
Well, if I wanted small town, I certainly got it! Roanoke College is a campus college situated directly in a very small town called Salem. Its main street is quite literally called Main Street, and it is the only real street the town has to offer. I loved it from the start. Don’t get me wrong, I was more homesick than I knew how to deal with when I first arrived. I cried probably everyday and told my parents I wanted to come home. They told me okay, and gave me two weeks. By the end of the two weeks, I’d found my feet and my home. I never wanted to leave. The most incredible part of my experience was without a doubt the people I met, who turned into my family and made Roanoke the most welcoming and happy home I could imagine. I laughed and smiled every single day I was there. My family grew to include people from America, Rwanda, Palestine, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the posh part of England! We were bonded by the intensity, the newness, and wonder of our experience. These people made me feel good about myself in a way I hadn’t in years. I went to classes where the professors genuinely cared about my thoughts, my writing, my ideas. I studied with American students, girls who managed to hold down jobs, classes, social lives, and still look after all us confused and lost international students with care and respect like it wasn’t work at all. I learnt to push myself academically to try to keep up with their standards, and I learnt to trust that I was the person all my friends seemed to think I was, I was really worth something. I travelled to New York and Washington. My only regret of the whole experience is that I didn’t see more of America. But this semester I’m off to Australia! I’m not sure I’ll manage to find such a perfect group of people like that again. but I’m taking everything I learnt from my time at Roanoke College with me, and this time I’m going to explore the country, and learn about myself some more.
If I hadn’t done my semester abroad, I think I would have finished my degree, done okay in it, wandered around and gotten a job without ever really feeling happy. Studying abroad set me free from routine, pressure, and close mindedness. I treasure my time at Roanoke College because it helped me find a part of myself I’d nearly forgotten, and gave absolute joy to my life.
Lily Taylor, American Studies. Lily is studying at the University of Canberra this semester, so watch out for part 2!