Taking The Leap

I could not even begin to imagine the trouble I would encounter trying to pursue a semester studying abroad.

As a disclaimer, not everyone will experience the same problems, or even any problems, as I did. But with so many obstacles and hurdles I have had to jump over and through and around, I’m honestly surprised I stuck with it. No one can list all the troubles you may come up against because there are so many types and because no two people are alike every situation will be different. It was unfortunate that the mixture that comprises my background and history just happened to work against me. In order to detail my entire story from start to finish, and to do it justice, I would need a completely new post dedicated solely to that one topic. That post may come in the later months, but having just finished dealing with the entire ordeal I want to anything other than to think about it.

The one thing I did learn from this experience is that if you really want to pursue something, you’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. And this is that something I wanted. Studying abroad is not something you just want to do and then you do it. It requires a lot of work and preparation and time. I was caught unaware multiple times these past few months. Even before starting college, I had a vague idea of wanting to study abroad before I graduated. But it was just that – a vague desire that I hadn’t done much with besides occasionally thinking about it and talking about it in passing with friends. It’s one of those conversational bits you have with other college-aged friends and acquaintances. Something to give substance to your conversations. Not many people pursue it to fruition, at least not the people I know. My advice is, if you do decide to study abroad, start as early as possible so you can give yourself time to solve any problems that may arise during the process.

Straying away from the topic of the unexpected level of difficulty encountered, trying to get into the mindset of actually being able to participate in this semester abroad was filled with excitement, anxiety and suspense.

One minute, I’m excited and happy and bursting to the brim with an undirected need and desire to do something, everything, anything. I don’t know what I need to do or want to do, I just had this feeling of wanting to do it. But then there is a switch, seemingly apropos of nothing, to a dread that knots my stomach that leads me to examine and dissect how new and strange and unknown everything can be. Soon the people around me, the clothes, the smell, the driving, the walking, the way people live and breathe and go about just existing will be foreign to me. And I don’t want it to. Right now, I know how to get to all my favorite places. I know which road to take and where to go if I need to turn left and traffic is heavy so I don’t have to make that turn. I know how to act in different settings – what is expected of me and how I can modify my actions in response to that.

But when I’m in South Korea (where I’m doing my semester abroad), I won’t know how to get around. I won’t know where my favorite coffee shops are. I won’t know what the fastest route from point A to point B is depending on the time of day and traffic level. I won’t know how I fit within the larger picture of society. And that terrifies me.

Sometimes, thinking about these things brings a sense of uneasiness because I know when you are new to a place there is this initial sense that feeling of newness will never end – it will never go away and you will always feel slightly out of place. As if you are a puzzle piece crammed into a space you weren’t meant for; only there in order to complete the picture. This is a tough barrier to overcome and being in a city overflowing with other people and feeling isolated will only make it more difficult. But this is expected, is it not? In search of the new and exciting, you give up comfort and safety.

And the only way to know if you can truly do something is to do it. You have to take the leap.

You’ll either land on both feet or you won’t.

And that’s what I’m doing.

Emily Stahl is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Marketing at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management. Emily will spend the semester abroad in South Korea participating in the Dongguk University exchange program. She is a member of the Delta Zeta sorority, Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity, and Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership honor society. Being from a small town north of KC, Emily is excited to live and study in the city of Seoul for 4 months. She looks forward to gaining a better perspective and understanding of the culture and society within South Korea. Emily is also eagerly anticipating expanding her knowledge of business interactions on an international scale and to meet people and make new connections while abroad.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.