Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” One of the most courageous things someone could do would be to pack up everything and leave.
We see movies about it all the time: “Eat, Pray, Love,” “Under the Tuscan Sun,” even “The Lizzie McGuire Movie.” There’s something about traveling that really lets you develop as a person. And in most occasions, the experiences you have changed your life.
After a foreign exchange in France, there was no turning back for Kate Haveles.
“The reason I decided to follow through with actually going abroad…instead of just fantasizing about how cool it would be was because I had this strange restless feeling, “said Haveles, a student at the American University in Paris. “I felt myself growing up and becoming more aware of the world, but…I didn’t feel like I was fully taking advantage of the amazing opportunities available to me.” She described living on her own as “intimidating,” but that could not overpower her passion, determination or excitement to conquer the language.
By going abroad, “I just felt a major shift in my mentality,” Haveles said. “It felt like I’d matured immensely and was going to be able to deal with life a lot more differently, and perhaps better, than before I’d gone.”
After one year at Harvard University, Haveles decided to take the ultimate leap: she has transferred to the American University in Paris.
“I’m super excited for what lies ahead,” she said. “My long-term plan is to spend a fair amount of time living in France as an adult, and I realized that I didn’t want to delay my life any longer. I wanted to get right to it.”
Haveles offers advice for any expats in-the-making. “My biggest regret about when I went abroad in high school was that I spent about the first two weeks being terrified everyone would judge my accent or flat out not be able to understand me, when all along everyone was waiting to hear me speak,” she said.
Packing up and moving to a different country for years at a time may seem a bit intimidating. But students also have the option to travel for a semester or even just weeks at a time. According to the Institute of International Education more than 270,000 students in the United States studied in another country in 2011, and the numbers keep growing.
As you rethink your future and map out your plans, remember that studying abroad is for your benefit, so don’t worry about anyone judging your accent. As Haveles said, “Trust yourself and really allow yourself the privilege to step out of your comfort zone. When you’re far away, you’re suddenly liberated and can be whoever you want and experience whatever you want.” Remember, you only live once!