Written by Foster Undergraduate, Crowin Franklin
“Why did you choose X city in X country?” If you’re about to embark on your study abroad adventure, you are surely going to be getting this question a lot from friends/family/etc. I believe that if you’re anywhere near normal, you will most likely have an exhaustive answer at the ready to shoot out proudly in response to this question. After studying abroad in Pamplona, Spain, I’m here to tell you that the “perfect plan” you’ve developed could possibly be the worst decision you’ll ever make.
My plan before I left included my language goals, the types of friends I would make, the places I would visit, and even the sorts of pictures I would take. I was so bad that I spent much of the anxious few days before my departure imagining full length conversations between myself and the people I would be meeting, acting out word-for-word how our exchanges would play out.
About a month into my semester abroad, I realized I wasn’t on track. I started worrying that my study abroad experience wouldn’t be a “success.” I tried to sideline the thought as best as I could, but it was always hanging over me to some extent throughout the rest of my semester. Don’t get me wrong; I still had amazing experiences and formed lasting friendships, but something wasn’t quite clicking. It wasn’t until my last two weeks abroad after my semester ended that everything came together. I decided to travel alone through five countries, starting in Morocco, seeing as much as I could as quickly as I could. However, on my first stop in Marrakech, I met a young traveler who taught me this simple truth:
Enthusiasm is a skill, not a feeling. If you impart all of your excitement unto the world, you will only ever see your own stock increase.
This lesson hit me like a train. I realized that my lack of fulfillment came because of my damn plan. If I wasn’t hitting my checklist on the nose, I was feeling like I failed in some way. I began making every aspect of my adventure the greatest thing ever in my head. From meals to sights, people, and more, everything began to take the shape of the energy I brought to it.
On paper, the last two weeks of my study abroad trip looked horrendous. From badly spraining my ankle in my first destination, to losing hundreds of euros on having to switch and cancel flights, to being stranded in the Airport, unsure if I would make it back for Christmas, the trip looked like a failure. However, the past two weeks have been the greatest of my life. I’ve never spent so much time smiling.
My friend, if you’re reading this, please believe me when I say your plan likely sucks. Only your own positive energy will bring you the satisfaction you’re looking for.