Tag: University of East Anglia

My Semester Abroad in Norwich

It’s difficult to summarize five months abroad in few brief sentences. When my friends and family ask me how the semester in England was I tell them it was great, that I got to travel a lot, meet so many new people and I learned a lot about other cultures and myself. I’m so lucky to be able to say that I have friends from all over the world now. I even got to stay with a few of them in their homes. I traveled to eight different countries and saw landmarks I thought I’d only ever see in textbooks and on the internet. I assimilated to British culture and by the end of the semester I found myself slightly confused when someone would interrupt me and ask if I was American because I forgot I had an accent. But here I won’t reflect on the adventures I had or the places I saw or describe the people I met. Instead I will reflect on a few personal moments that I realized changes in myself.

Participating in a solo exchange instead of a group program allowed me to reach a new level of independence. Of course there were advisors at both universities to help me if I needed it, but I was on my own. Two months into the semester I admitted in my journal, “I have surprised myself with how comfortable I feel here even though I’m here by myself.” I had to step out of my comfort zone and introduce myself to so many people. At first, it was like dating, but for new friends. I became more confident asking questions if I encountered something new or culturally different. I could see how well I was handling my new freedom and I was overcome with this feeling that I could do anything. It felt so empowering.

Another personal quality I improved while abroad was my patience. Whilst traveling, things don’t always go as planned and traveling involves waiting in a lot of queues (the British word for line). Not only did I have to be patient as I traveled from country to country, but I also had to be patient with myself. I was experiencing cultures different than my own and I had to learn and adjust. I couldn’t expect that everything would come naturally to me. Sometimes I made mistakes, but that’s okay because I learned from them.

One particular moment that really stood out to me occurred when I arrived in Berlin. I was traveling alone and I had to take a train from the airport into the city where my friend lived. I made a mistake and got on the wrong train because the train lines were very similar in color on the map. As soon as I realized I was going in the wrong direction I got off at the next stop. The stop was in a rural area and there wasn’t anyone around, the sun was setting, I was in a new country, unable to speak German and I had no way to contact my friend. Usually I would start to panic, and I almost did, but I told myself that getting emotional wouldn’t be helpful because the only person who could get me out of the situation was me. I took a deep breath and used the map to find the best route to get to where I needed to go. Two hours after landing, I had made it to my friend’s flat safe and sound. I was so proud of myself for not shutting down despite the situation I got myself into and I figured it out on my own.

Studying abroad this semester was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I am so glad that I worked hard for the opportunity to go. The world is a beautiful place. I cannot wait to explore more of it. The places you visit and the people you meet are not the only things that make study abroad worthwhile; it’s the things you learn about yourself and the personal changes you experience too. Some of the changes I have highlighted here may seem minor, but overall I feel significantly different. I know that I have returned a more mature, independent and confident woman.

-Alexandra Mullen, University of East Anglia Exchange