How should you expect to grow while studying abroad?

Each time I go abroad, I grow. Short recap of my abroad experiences:

* went to Japan when I was 16 years old as part of a sister-city exchange program and lived with two host families; duration – 3 weeks
* studied abroad in South Africa for a semester as an undergraduate; duration – 5 and a half months
* coordinated and led William Penn University’s first study abroad program which was a course held prior to a trip to Rwanda and Tanzania; duration – 11 days

(For those unfamiliar with the time frames, that was 3 different trips/locations abroad within 6 years.)

Going abroad when I was 16 years old, I participated in a program where I was on a pre-determined schedule and felt safe and completely taken care of. The time in South Africa was kind of a step above that where I had the support I needed when I was abroad but I was also rather independent. My courses kind of determined when I could and could not take long weekends away to travel more around the country and southern region of Africa – but I was still able to do most of the things I wanted.

Rwanda and Tanzania was an interesting experience. Because of its shorter duration – one might think it to be an easier time abroad. However, it was kind of the contrast. My job was not to have fun myself but to ensure that the students on the trip (total of seven), President Fields and her husband all were enjoying themselves. My biggest fear was in “losing” a student – which almost occurred at the airport when a student couldn’t find her passport for about 10 (but seeming way longer) minutes. While I enjoyed seeing a new part of the world, I will also admit, I was kind of glad for it to be over as well – so I could get a breather and have the time to look back and realize the larger impact that my work for the past 6 months had included. (The Rwanda and Tanzania trip was created and executed in 6 months. Not bad for a timeline.)

With each trip adding another set of experiences and lessons learned to my personal life, I thought it would be good to point out how one can expect (or hope) to grow while studying/being abroad. The not-all-inclusive list include:

* Become more independent
* More adventurous
* More likely to ask questions / be curious
* More likely to want to travel the world again
* More likely to appreciate what you have
* Become interested in be-friending people of other cultures after returning home
* Setting goals for yourself that will allow you to travel either for work or personal reasons
* More likely to feel like an “expert” in the culture of where you were at for longer periods of time (haha, I will admit, I feel this way sometimes and it’s not always a good way of thinking)
* Becoming a better photographer / learning to carry your camera everywhere! (I took about 1600 photos when in South Africa in contrast to my friend who barely took 500 during the same time frame)
* You make connections with locals that hopefully continue through the help of Skype, Facebook, e-mail, etc. (One of my friends from South Africa actually just arrived for five years in the United States and I am so excited to be able to see her after two and a half years!)

To read how a blog follower grew during her time abroad, click here: http://iwhowander.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/why-i-studied-abroad/

What ways did you grow or do you expect to grow while being abroad?

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