Following months of anticipation and preparation, the time had finally come. I was standing in the middle of Boston Logan International Airport about to depart for the journey of a lifetime. And then the thought hit me: This was the last time that I would see my family and be in the comfort of my own country for the next three months. Yet, with a leap of faith and one last hug, I somehow knew that it would be worth it in the end. And wow, I sure was right.
I was blessed to have had the opportunity to study abroad in Salzburg, Austria at Universität Salzburg for the duration of the Fall 2017 semester. Although my obligations as a student were the primary focus of my time abroad, my most impactful learning experiences occurred outside of the classroom. As a foreigner, I was able to immerse myself in an unfamiliar culture halfway across the world. Initially, everything felt different- from immediate life essentials such as language and new cuisine, to the very structure of their educational system. Yet, I quickly realized that half of the fun was learning about these cultural differences and facing the challenges that resulted from them.
As is often the case, challenges are not overcome alone. Other students- both fellow Americans and international students, quickly became a resource to depend on. Each of us decided to study abroad to create new memories, face diverse challenges, and try to gain a better understanding of another small piece of the world. In addition to finding strength in others, studying abroad also taught me to find strength in myself. Those three months were a period of intense individual growth and development. Having seen the beauty of both the world and humanity from another perspective, one is forced be globally conscious.
Taking a step back and overlooking these subtle differences in culture and lifestyle, there is always a common humanity. No matter what the language barrier, you can always communicate using body language and a smile. Across the world, people share the same capacity to love.
A piece of advice that someone once gave me: “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to do just this. For the rest of our lives, we will be put into challenging and unfamiliar situations as physicians. Why not start early and take a leap of faith to experience a new corner of the world? You might learn about a new culture and even discover a bit more about yourself.
Siena College Class of 2019
Albany Medical College Class of 2023