Now that I am back in good old Virginia, I can honestly say I am so grateful for every experience, challenge, and mishap that occurred during my time abroad in London. I have noticed some large changes in myself since being abroad. First off, being in a foreign, huge city and traveling so much has helped me be able to adapt to some stressful situations. For example, on my first train to the airport I missed my stop and watched as the person I was traveling with became smaller and smaller on the train platform I was supposed to be on as well. With the help of a kind stranger on the train I quickly regained composure and had a plan to get to the airport. I also think it has made me a bit more vocal. This is because while traveling sometimes it is best to just ask someone for help or directions instead of trying to figure it out yourself or by looking it up on your phone. Before coming here I strongly disliked asking others for help and would rather take more time to do it on my own. Traveling and being clueless at some points while traveling lessened my unwillingness to ask (sometimes stupid) questions.
Another change I noticed was the breaking down of some stereotypes I did not even realize I believed in. These stereotypes are associated with central European countries. Before visiting Prague and Budapest, I expected to experience a lot more of their communist past and feel a little uncomfortable in those cities because of their past. However, after visiting I realized I experienced nothing but two beautiful cities full of culture and history. Budapest, in fact, is one of my top three favorites cities I was able to visit.
As a result of going abroad, I see the United States differently as well. Not only will I never take for granted free water and free refills again, but I will celebrate its diversity more. I remember I was sitting in Budapest’s Parliament building watching a line form for the next tour and thought, “Wow, every single one of these people could be American.” I was slightly surprised that although some of the people in that line perhaps looked more French or German than American, there was nothing decisive that showed that person could not identify as American. My next thought was that all of the people in that line could be from basically any of the 13 countries I visited during my time abroad. Overall, I have been struck by the diversity in many of the cities and countries I have visited, and it is something I definitely think should be celebrated more in the States and all over the world.
Luckily, I have not had much trouble readjusting to life in the States, but I have almost forgotten to leave tips at restaurants a few times. It has been truly bittersweet to be back home. If nothing else, the biggest change that studying abroad has brought about in me is the desire to explore. So while I am happy to be home and spending time with friends and family, I really want to get on another flight going somewhere new. This goes for not only other countries and continents (I really want to explore Asia now) but also other states. For example, I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon and have made it my goal to road trip to Arizona after I graduate. I now know how much energy, time, and planning it takes to travel so I want to do as much as I can while I have as few responsibilities as possible. Speaking of after graduation, I do not think studying abroad has changed my career trajectory as far as the field of accounting. However, I am now much more up for the challenge of learning more about IFRS standards so I can work abroad at some point in my career.
Studying abroad has been one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I can’t wait for the day when I make it back to London.