Point of View: Study abroad helps students cultivate independence

By Jessica Acklen
A & E Editor

After 26 hours of travel, a canceled flight, one train, three planes, a taxi and pickup truck, I finally arrived back in Texas at 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 22. I felt almost as if I had been on a continual journey for four months, while I studied abroad.

When I stepped off the plane at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, I was a completely different person than when I left in September.

There are few things that can change you as a person like removing yourself from your comfort zone and stepping into independence can.

When I arrived in London, all I could think about was adjusting to living in a foreign city.

I decided to study abroad there because I fell in love with London when I traveled through Europe during the summer prior to my freshman year. In addition to adding an impressive semester, complete with foreign internship, to my resume, I wanted time away from my usual rhythm at Baylor.

Once I arrived, it was a whirlwind of sightseeing and discovering some of my new favorite places. From having tea at the Victoria and Albert Museum to making late-night crepe runs, I easily submerged myself into a pattern in this unfamiliar, yet exhilarating city.

I was able to do things and go places that would have been unthinkable if I stayed at Baylor. We saw the pope on his trip to England. I saw Manolo Blahnik at London’s Fashion’s Night Out and he signed a pair of shoes for me.

During my lunch hour at work one day, I saw Simon Cowell going into a hotel. We went to the “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” premiere.

As the weeks progressed, not only did my bond with the city become stronger, my bonds with my roommates strengthened as well. It isn’t difficult to get to know people when you live in such close quarters. I lived in a room with three other girls in an apartment with five additional people. It’s safe to say that it was the most crowded place I’ve ever lived.

I feel blessed to say that I came home with friendships so unique that they will assuredly be lasting ones. There really are few people who can understand the way my life changed over those four months like those who experienced the changes with me.

I remember when I first got to London, I was so worried about the tube system.

I knew that I would end up completely lost and have no idea where I was or how to get home. Then, by the end of the trip, I practically had the tube map memorized. I knew what lines to take to always get home.

I came to depend on myself. Living in Waco is a great way to cultivate independence, but I am little more than 70 miles from home. I can call my parents anytime and they provide a solution to any problem.

Being 4,000 miles away and six hours ahead often hindered my communication with those I left at home. So I solved problems on my own. I made decisions by myself.

I learned to be independent over those four months. It was something I was lucky to learn.

I learned so much about myself while I studied abroad and it truly was the experience of a lifetime. It is an experience that cannot be replicated. It is absolutely something that I would recommend to every Baylor student. The world outside of Waco is so much bigger.

Jessica Acklen is a senior journalism and political science major from Arlington and the A & E editor for The Lariat.