“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” When Bilbo uttered these words in J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved Lord of the Rings, he was exactly right.
As soon as you set foot off of your homeland, you are challenged in almost every way imaginable: You must think differently, perhaps change how you socially interact, and of course, abandon your insular American perspective if you wish to fully immerse yourself in the ways of an unfamiliar place.
Ever since I can remember, I have always felt slightly behind in life. I was the kid who didn’t have their driver’s license until after I graduated high school. I wouldn’t even feel confident enough to join The Snapper until my sophomore year in college.
Looking back, there are definitely some things that I wished I would have done differently. Although I may carry my list of should-haves with me, today I can happily say that after making the decision to study abroad, these regrets have been forgotten. I have found that there is too much to look forward to, now that I possess the ambition and self-assuredness that I have always longed for in life.
When I initially heard about Millersville University’s Iceland study abroad course, I thought, that sounds really cool…but I will never go. I didn’t know anyone else going, the class was an energy course (I am an English major)…the list of reasons not to go seemed greater than the reasons to go in my mind.
I probably wouldn’t have gone, but thankfully, a thought struck me, nestling in the crevices of my anxious mind: When would I ever get the chance to experience such a remote place again? Not many people can say that they have been to Iceland, and here I am, exhibiting angst-y pre-teen behavior on account of me not knowing anyone and it being a tad bit outside of my comfort zone? Pathetic.
I have always told myself that one must do things that scare oneself; after all, if we don’t fear our dreams they aren’t big enough, and now was the time to follow some of mine.
Well, you probably want to know how Iceland was. I can say without a doubt, that this was the best experience of my life. After landing in the artistic, self-expressive city of Reykjavik (Iceland’s largest and most populous city), the next nine days would be filled with some chilly awe-inspiring scenic views, bumpy long rides in a fully packed van, many long hikes up mountains to gaze upon waterfalls, a look inside a volcanic cave, a whale watching tour, a boat ride through a glacier, and the excitement that one can only feel knowing they are staying in a different hostel each night.
Of course, this is just the postcard version. What made this trip so incredible was not necessarily the views, but who I was able to share them with. I made many friends on this trip. If, or rather, when you study abroad, one of the best feelings is being surrounded by like-minded people, who share the same spirit of adventure as you do. You will make friends, and they will be good ones.
I always remind myself that everyone is on their own journey and working towards acquiring some form of self-knowledge (the hardest knowledge there is to acquire). Traveling will open up your mind to possibilities, allow you to feel the tranquility of wandering aimlessly, and more importantly, instill in you a sense of confidence.
The world is out there waiting. Don’t let this kind of opportunity pass you by because you aren’t “ready”. After all, if we waited until we were ready to do something, would we ever do anything at all? So on the way to wherever you’re going…let yourself go, and change into the person you were meant to become.