By Jacob Hatze:
There are moments in life that inspire individuals to explore new possibilities and to step out of their comfort zone. The opportunity to study abroad in a new and different land is definitely one of those moments.
It was after many long and anxious moments of waiting for an answer from the ISEP program that I finally found out I had been accepted as an international exchange student for the Spring session at Emporia State University, Kansas, USA.
After a long embrace, I farewelled my family and departed Kingsford Smith Airport for a fifteen-hour flight to Los Angeles. I was never an avid flyer and to make matters worse, I was seated at the back of the aircraft sandwiched between two other passengers. After a long day of flying, I arrived at Kansas City International Airport where I was met by ESU ambassadors and fellow international students who had come from Finland, Peru, Korea, China and Puerto Rico.
I stepped outside to the awaiting bus where we were immediately hit by the cold. Looking at the weather on my phone, I saw it was -22 degrees Celsius.
The first couple of days during the orientation process were the most stressful. The fact that this was going to be my new home for the next four months and that I wouldn’t be able to see my family, hit me hard.
After experiencing the various stages of homesickness, I went out and explored my new college and immediately found that I was accepted. People would talk to you and immediately took a shine to you on the basis that you were from a different land or culture. And before I knew it, the jokes about Skippy and koalas were flying.
Every week I was invited to a different social gathering with either international or domestic students, whether it be a basketball game or road trip to another city. Within three weeks of arriving, the weather went from average to terrible with snowstorms and blizzards that forced everyone to stay inside.
After three months of classes and assignments, Spring Break came along and I was so excited. My international friends who had transferred to ESU permanently had decided that we would do a road trip down to Florida for sun, surf and new experiences that we were unable to find in Emporia. We spent the week-long break in Palm Beach, Miami, and Orlando where we went skydiving and enjoyed sharing stories about each other’s homelands.
After Spring Break , I traveled back to a mass of assignments and exams that continued until the end of May when I graduated from my semester-long program. I spent my remaining weeks in Louisiana, New York City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Choosing to study abroad was one of the best decisions I ever made. It not only taught me independence and provided me with new-found friendships that I will keep for a lifetime, but I explored new horizons and stepped out of my comfort zone. I would highly recommend this experience.