By: Michelle Davies, Thompson Rivers University, winner of the BC Study Abroad: Stories from Abroad Scholarship
Study Abroad Destination: Switzerland
At the feisty age of 4 years old, I promptly told my older brother: “you are not the boss of me, I know more than you do,” as I scaled the fridge in search of the candy cupboard. This offered insight towards the independent person I would become. There was little I didn’t want to do on my own and rare that I asked for help.
How does this connect with study abroad? Going to Switzerland, I had to learn to let go of control. Not knowing German, nevermind Swiss German, forced me to accept that I wouldn’t and couldn’t always understand what was going on. Plus, I didn’t always understand how life operated in my new home. Though typically simple, I would make mistakes that left me embarrassed. While I was diligently working on my German language skills, and many kindly spoke in English, the reality was: often I didn’t understand what was being said or the situation at hand.
At first, I felt lonely and struggled to come to terms with my new reality. But as time went on, I learn to appreciate this new sense of freedom. Freedom to be in my own thoughts, the ability to “go with the flow,” enjoy the moment for what it was and laugh at myself. A lot. Plus, my ability to read situations through body language became a valued skill.
Returning home, I found it hard to adapt to always being in the know. This first struck me when I was standing in the grocery store line up: I could understand every word of the gossip filed story told by the couple in front of me. I missed the sort of “lulu-land” that I had often found myself in.
Luckily I brought home much of what I had learned abroad: the ability to enjoy the moment, let some control go and not take myself so seriously. And some seriously good charade skills!