I got to set off on the adventure I always wanted. This trip, studying abroad in the United Kingdom, has been the fulfillment of a dream. The chance to study in a foreign country as well as travel around a continent I have never been to before has introduced me to ideas, concepts, places and people I otherwise probably would not have encountered anytime soon.
The courses I studied here introduced me to fields and analytical techniques, many of which are not covered by my course of study back in the States. A lot of the new perspectives and concepts I have learned have been thanks to the broad array of classes available to students on exchange programs. They allow students to take courses in different majors and many of which are not offered at their home institutions. Before I applied to study abroad, I carefully examined programs to see which courses were available where. When I was accepted to the international academic program at the University of Hertfordshire, I was surprised to find out my courses were chosen for me. I had written an essay about my academic interests and goals. The tutors here decided what I would study while abroad based on that my transcripts and that one personal statement. At first it seemed like there was a lot of variety in amongst the modules they selected for me. As I near the end of my studies here, I have come to realize that plenty of the material covered in each course overlaps.
Thanks to one module I took, I now have hands on experience administering ECG examinations, and bloodletting. In another course, we studied the essential nutrients and protein precursors found in the blood and pumped throughout the body by the contractions of heart tissue that results from the same electrical impulses that an ECG records. Yet another course went over how toxic chemicals like mercury that can accumulate in the environment and enter the same blood stream. Despite each course being from a different major, or “course” as Europeans say, I found myself most interested in topics of each course that happened related to each other. I then realize that parts of each course that most garnered my attention where those that overlapped with my main academic interests, the lectures and workshops that I most enjoyed were those most based in chemistry. I was particularly interested in the study of toxins that enter it into the body after accumulating in the environment and exactly how they affect us. This subject appeared in three of my four courses, sports health, environmental management, and biochemistry. The library here has been a great source of books on work in regulating chemical accumulation in the environment. Without realizing it at first, my semester abroad helped me confirm what I am most interested in perusing in graduate school and hopefully my own future research and work.
So my future, or the future that I hope to pursue anyway, is a bit more clear to me. However, I wouldn’t say that I found myself on my trip to Europe. At most, this all just reminded me of what I already know about myself and gave me a new perspectives to view myself. The only cliché thing that I can say about what I’ve gained from this trip is that it did broaden my horizons. I mostly used the time here getting to know the other international student who provided endless conversation comparing every little difference between our respective nations. They view much of daily American life as foreign and different. I showed the English what a Thanksgiving dinner was about. Friends shared Kings’ Cake and Malaysian coffee with me. When one of the French friends I have made here even visited New York as a tourist for Christmas whilst I visited France we were able to compare the tourist versus local perspective when we reunited. In general, I feel like I have a better grasp of how foreigners view American as well as how the world outside of the States differs. I have also made connections with countless people from England, Europe and the rest of the world that may be helpful in my future endeavors.
From a practical perspective, I have actually accomplished a lot here. Besides the few credits and the academic knowledge I gained along the way, all the wishes I have crossed off my bucket list was my next biggest major accomplishment whilst here. I kissed the Blarney stone, saw Stonehenge upfront, made pilgrimage to Lourdes, spoke Spanish in Spain, and explored Ireland, the home of my ancestors. I’m hopefully also going to get to see the northern lights when I stop in Iceland on my way back home. I am having adventures I never would have imagined before as well. I tested an actual patient’s blood and explored London on bike. I spent an afternoon in a castle that doubled as a space observatory. I took a road trip to Barcelona. I swam in the Mediterranean and I saw the most amazing sculpture park in Norway that I never even knew existed before. I’m having a blast collecting currencies along the way. I have made memories and new friends to last me a life time.
My life has changed. I was an independent person before, but by managing to studying abroad I have demonstrated this. Now I have all my experiences to cherish and learn from as well an accomplishment on my resume establishes that I am capable and mature enough take the initiative to relocate, adapt to a new environment, and learn from new resources.