Studying abroad can help people discover or learn new things about themselves, and it can teach you to be more understanding of other cultures. 

It felt strange packing my bags the day before I left. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the place I called home for the past four months. I grew fond of my life in Oxford and the people I met along the way. However, on Dec.9th, 2023, I boarded a plane from London to Los Angeles, understanding that I wasn’t coming back home as the same person. 

Studying abroad at the University of Oxford for a semester allowed me to imagine a life outside of the U.S. I believe everyone should get the opportunity to study away because it can reveal new desires, passions and ideas you didn’t know existed before. It wasn’t until I experienced Oxford that I realized I wanted to pursue a master’s degree in international relations. That is why I strongly encourage students to leave their current geographical location behind and explore a foreign country for a few months. You never know what new version of yourself you might find abroad. 

Also, studying abroad allows you to have more cultural awareness and an open-mindedness to diverse new ideas. According to research “What students are actually learning on study abroad and how to improve the learning experience,” Professor  Melanie Dunkley writes about how “study abroad offers an uncommon opportunity to change the cultural perspectives of a large number of future workers, educators, leaders, soldiers, parents, and voters…” 

I think about how different policies and educational systems would look if more people studied abroad. Spending time in a new country can help us better identify issues that our home country is dealing with. We grow to be more empathetic and tolerant towards new ideas and people because we have seen diverse walks of life. 

During my time in England, I understood that not everyone thinks like me or shares the same values. I was met with a range of political and religious beliefs that contrasted with mine, but I was still able to learn from people who were so different from me. I was actually enthralled to hear about a variety of religious and political views because it offered me new ways of thinking. I became more open and willing to see the other side of an issue, and the only way to learn this trait is to hear people out. 

I encourage students to study abroad because you will be introduced to different versions of yourself, and maybe you will put to rest old desires and discover new ones. I truly found a deeper love for other cultures and people while being away from the U.S. I have always viewed myself as a global citizen, and not just an American citizen. 

I have wanted to serve all nations since I was young, but going to Oxford helped mold and expand those preexisting desires. Studying abroad is so vital and important for students because you can discover parts of you that you never knew existed. Or you can nourish aspirations that were already a part of your story.