Jumbo Exchange: A reflection on study abroad

Time flies. It really does. As of now, I have completed my exchange program in the United States.

To be perfectly honest, the past nine months were not all filled with fun and happy memories. Things didn’t always turn out the way I expected. It was not that everything went swimmingly back home, but in hindsight, I was a bit too optimistic and oblivious about things around me. No regrets at this point, but as a matter of fact, what I said I would do when studying abroad and what I have done here are simply pretty different. As I wrote in my second column, especially at the beginning of the last semester, I was kind of overwhelmed and stressed out by my inability to balance things well in both academics and social life. From what I recall, that period was one of the roughest times of my life so far.

Nonetheless, the days that I spent here were just so precious. I know it sounds really cheesy, and I myself even hate it when I say this kind of thing, but I mean it. I genuinely appreciate every single bit of my exchange experience, from which I have learned a ton of things — some of which you can see in my past columns. I had never been studying so hard before, nor I have been thinking of my future and everything as seriously as I do now. I’m proud that I’ve come all the way this far to study abroad and transformed myself.

It is funny because I literally lost my self-confidence more than ever before when I first embarked on study abroad, but I’ve never been as confident as I am now at the very end of it. To be sure, it doesn’t mean that I now think I’m awesome or anything like that. I’m just certain I now know way more about myself than before. Seeing new things and people always makes me turn an introspective eye: What kind of a person am I? What makes me happy? After I made it through this experience — one of the hardest times of my life — I’m now more aware of how I can get out of a rough situation when I am stuck in it. It is certainly something that is really precious and will help me from now on and throughout my life.

Not to mention, the friends I’ve made here are more important than anything. Forgive my sappiness, but I will never forget that there were always people who helped me out. I could never thank my friends enough. People are one of the most significant environmental factors that make who you are and change you. Ultimately, I might have been able to learn all of this international relations stuff back home or somewhere else, but I couldn’t have met the people here if I didn’t get out of my comfort zone and fly from the opposite side of the planet all the way to Medford, Mass.

I truly appreciate these short, but also long, nine months.