By Sarah Britt, Foster Undergraduate and Global Business Center Study Abroad Scholarship Recipient who participated in an exchange with RSM Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Study abroad: something that everyone says that you should do. You may get tired of hearing it. But… turns out that they’re wrong. Studying abroad this past quarter at the Rotterdam School of Management was the most wondrous experience of my entire life, and I say this with complete and utter frankness. I was always a rather timid person, but being in another country by myself without a safety net to cling to forced me to grow into this entirely new and independent person. When I first arrived, I was terrified to even go outside. The Brussels terrorist attacks happened the day I had landed, and everyone was in a panic. The general atmosphere of fear coupled with the fact that I didn’t have any cash and my debit card wouldn’t work for a week made going out difficult. But after a few days of being cooped up in my room, I kept feeling like I was wasting my time. I was in Europe for crying out loud! I finally gathered up the courage to go out and explore… and I never stopped.
As it was a study abroad, there was actually some studying involved. My first day of class was
nerve-wracking. The professors seemed more distant than what I was used, but the support provided by the student network was unlike anything I had experienced. At the Rotterdam School of Management, they
do not utilize the dreaded curve. So, what you get grade-wise is pretty much what you get. This fostered a greater attitude of comradery between students. At first, I found it to be off-putting. I was so used to students being pitted against one another for the sake of the curve, but I soon found myself softening and wanting to help anyone and everyone.
Yes, the school I went to is a very highly esteemed college. But that was not the whole reason for attending; I wanted to see the Europe I had only dreamt about experiencing. I knew that early on I would need to plan everything meticulously. There absolutely had to be time for travel. So I sat down one weekend and wrote down every place I wanted to visit. The slightly more challenging part was making everything fall into place. Throughout the numerous Airbnb cancellations and the quest for the cheapest buses, I found my mantra: “It will be all right in the end, and if it’s not all right it’s not the end.” And somehow, it ended up all right. I traveled to Brussels, Bruge, Budapest, Vienna, Slovakia, Paris, Haarlem, Amsterdam, Zurich, Basel, Delft, and Den Haag. One of my principals to follow was getting lost in the first day; to wander, amble, roam. If my endeavors were successful, I would find myself engulfed in the culture of the city. Everywhere I went I made sure walk and simply stop and take everything in. As a photographer, I used my art to capture not only my memories of the places I visited, but to capture the culture of the country. At first, traveling alone to other countries and cities where I knew no one and was limited linguistically was terrifying. Yet in the end, it forced me to meet myself and to grow my independent spirit.
I returned to the states more courageous than ever and more determined than ever to make my way back to Europe as immediately as possible. I have found my taste for adventure, and I cannot wait to return and stumble upon more in the future.