I never thought that I would get the chance to study abroad during my college career. I feel as if every student thinks this way and believes that it’s an experience that’s too expensive or “just out of reach.” I was just like every other student, until one day I decided to take a leap of faith.
I initially saw the flyer for the study abroad opportunity on my webcourse account and immediately applied without thinking about money or taking time off from the two jobs I had. To my surprise, I was contacted back by the program coordinator in no time and already had a meeting set up with her. I did not know what to expect from the meeting or what the study abroad experience was even going to entail. After my initial meeting with the coordinator, Maureen Waked, I was more than pleased with what she had to say about the program. She explained all the activities that would take place during the trip and explained the details about payment options. After the meeting my expectations were high. Maureen had me convinced that this was going to be a trip I would never forget. So, without hesitation I decided to bite the bullet and begin paying for the trip. Luckily, my Florida Bright Futures scholarship helped fund some of the costs for the classes.
After waiting month after month for the trip, it was finally time to pick up my life and go to another country. Of course, by this time I had done my fair share of research on the location of the University and definitely knew what to expect. Upon my arrival to the city of Jönköping in Sweden, I was blown away by the beauty. However, making my way to the living accommodations, I didn’t really know what to expect. I was not really given too much information on where I would be staying while studying abroad; I really only knew how much I would be paying for living expenses. I quickly learned that the apartment complex I would be staying at was not what I thought it would be. It was quite far from the University and didn’t seem as if it was in the best area of the city. Of course, this was merely just a first impression, that over the course of my stay, was completely changed. The rent was cheap compared to what I pay over here in the States and I was provided with a bus pass that could get me anywhere in the city. Even though, it seemed as if the apartments where not located in the best area, I was pleased with the accommodations overall, because it allowed me to meet so many people and experience the Swedish culture in a very raw form. I observed families going about their daily activities, parents playing with their children and friends gathering for barbecues out in the courtyard. Also, the apartment complex had a market and pharmacy on the same property so I could get any supplies I needed. At the Market, I was forced to learn Swedish words in order to find what I needed for cooking. I noticed that not many of the locals spoke English there, which definitely helped me learn more of the language.
As far as the activities that I participated in, my expectations were blown away. From visiting the Vadstena Castle, to playing bumper ball with my classmates, to getting a tour of IKEA’s Central Distribution Center, there was never an absence of fun. The tour of Husqvarna’s Headquarters was also a very notable experience that I was always excited about, because I had always used their lawn equipment growing up. The Husqvarna factory was over a hundred years old and yet was still something beyond my words. In terms of the Advanced Supply Chain Logistics course that I took, I was somewhat nervous to start out, because I was not sure how different the classroom atmosphere would be in Sweden. Throughout the course, I began to realize how much I liked the way I was being taught. From assignments all the way to tests, everything was very group focused. Not only did this help the class focus better as a whole, it helped me focus better individually and learn the subject matter more proficiently. Before my study abroad experience, I believed that it was very difficult to work in groups all the time and get anything accomplished. During the experience, I quickly gave up this belief because of how well I began to retain what I was learning. I was able to stay with the same group during the whole course, which not only allowed us to work more efficiently together over time, it allowed us to developed relationships that stretched beyond the scope of our academics. This was something that I definitely did not expect. I was worried that it would be difficult to make friends and communicate with the other international students. This was not the case. Friendships came along day after day and every day I began to realize how little a language barrier matters when you get along with someone. This was probably my biggest realization on the trip; that no matter who I met or who I became friends with, they were just like me… human. They laughed at the same jokes as I did. They taught me new ways to look at culture and new ways to see the world around me. They taught me to be humble and respect your peers no matter their background. This trip gave me friendships and connections that I would have never even come close to making if I stayed back in the United States.
Overall, I would say that my study abroad experience was more than humbling. Not only that, but it was well worth the time spent on long flights, in boring airports and away from home. It was almost like a month long breath of fresh air. So often, we get caught up in the repetition of our daily lives and feel trapped or limited by our current situation – this was my feeling everyday for the past year until I studied abroad. This opportunity has not only been exhilarating, breath-taking and eye-opening, it has provided me with new knowledge of culture, academics and relationships. If I were to give one recommendation to a student thinking about studying abroad, it would be to take the chance. Drop what you’re doing, if you can, and go make memories. Go learn something new and meet people you would never meet otherwise. Bet on yourself for once instead of betting on other individual’s goals. Make your own legacy. Change your life for the better. Leave college with no regrets. Study Abroad.