“It only ends once. Anything before that is just progress”
It was not until the fifth day that I woke in my flat and I truly understood what I had gotten myself into. During the spring semester of 2013 I had the opportunity to study and intern abroad in London, England. During the entire pre-departure process I never wavered or was anxious for the journey I was about to take. Looking back I would even consider my childish excitement naive since I did not even fully emotional prepare for the semester ahead of me. I had gotten comfortable with my college lifestyle. A routine not worth changing I had slipped into being complacent with my noon classes, on campus food services, short walks to class, established group of friends, and a “short n’ sweet” system to living life. I did not think about how studying abroad would force me to fundamentally change every gear. Now that it is over, looking back I am glad that my spring 2013 semester was abroad for the experiences I lived and the memories I formed makes me truly blessed and honestly a better person.
One of the biggest initial hurdles to living abroad is getting over the feelings of homesickness and missing the Auburn family. The biggest misconception I found is assuming that because the national language of United Kingdom is English therefore our cultures are similar. This couldn’t be more off and hit me like a ton of bricks after the initial “honeymoon phase” wore off. Being a creature of habit, the complete change of schedule really jolted me into fully getting the fact that I was no longer in Auburn, Alabama.
I was really surprised by my reservations and after talking with my parents I felt at a crossroad. I could both feel depressed and allow the culture shock to ruin my trip or I could decide to push myself and make the most of my opportunities even when I did not want to. My first step was to appreciate my abroad roommates. I was placed with a great group of students and we all really clicked to make a solid group to plan trips with or explore the city. Learning to welcome and be grateful for these newly developed friendships will help me exponentially when I leave college and enter the workforce.
Second step was to explore and plan as many trips and take full advantage of Europe as a whole. I traveled to many interesting and gorgeous places, such as Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, and many more. While this made my weekends super hectic, these experiences will stay with me forever and actually made my journey fly by. Staying busy not only helped me get over my initial feelings of wanting to go home but also made me appreciate and take full advantage of expanding my cultural experiences.
Perhaps the most principal step during my time abroad was taking lead at my internship opportunity. I was placed with a British multimedia company called Latimer Creative Media and learned so much while loving every minute. Everyday I walked into my internship knowing my skills and work ability were going to be pushed to the limit. My internship had been a rewarding development with many creative, business, and educational accomplishments. Never in my life had I worked with so many talented and creative people that had all brought different aspects to every project I worked on.
My study abroad semester was a huge personal expedition because I overcame many individual obstacles to achieve many goals. This took a great deal of growing up and understanding myself better while in London and my travels. A wise man once said, “It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress.” At the beginning of my trip I thought being abroad with a hectic schedule in a busy city would be the end of me and I would never succeed. I had to stop myself and break things into steps forward. It was only then that I realized that this abroad journey wasn’t the end of the world but rather jump-started progress in my life journey.
— Michael Gutierrez