Like many of you are experiencing now, six months ago I arrived in a new town, excited to go to a new school and meet lots of new people. My experience was a little different, though.
Instead of arriving to the sunny shores of FGCU, I was getting off a train in the snowy country of Sweden. For the next five months, my best friend and fraternity brother, Andrew Johnson, and I were going to be exchange students at Halmstad University.
The first question everyone asks after my semester abroad is, “How was it?” Of course my response is always along the lines of, “It was awesome!” or “I learned so much!” But the truth is, the only way to understand my experience would be to try something like it yourself.
Before arriving, I had no idea what to expect. After spending 2 1/2 years at FGCU, I was well settled and comfortable, so moving to a foreign country definitely put me outside of my comfort zone.
To put some things into perspective, I was one of two Americans at the University, living with 200 other exchange students from all corners of the world. And I mean all corners of the world.
My dorm was a literal melting pot of cultures and languages. Victor was from Denmark, Pol was from Belgium, Danny was from South Korea, Suya was from Brazil, and Kiko was from Spain.
During downtime, we discussed customs, had international potluck dinners and even traveled to different countries together. International student life was surprising, and I was amazed at how much I could learn by simply living with people that were different than me. By suddenly moving in and living so closely with these people, we created an unbreakable bond and grew as individuals more than we could have ever imagined.
Sweden was an absolutely beautiful country. As winter turned into summer trees blossomed, birds started chirping again, and tulips seemed to pop up from nowhere. The most interesting part was that the Swedes definitely took advantage of the beautiful weather. From winter to summer, the population of Halmstad goes from 40,000 to 90,000, and there are literally people all over the city having lunch in parks, shopping at flea markets and mostly just enjoying life. People were always happy there.
Having the opportunity to study in Sweden was by far the greatest experience of my life. The months of paperwork and planning beforehand was miniscule to what the experience gave me.
I went with open expectations and left with life lessons, unforgettable memories and friends that I call family. If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to jump into the unknown like I did. Relating back to those of you who are also about to experience new things, I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone. Take new opportunities, even if you’re not sure how they will turn out. If you’re willing to make the most out of it, then you have nothing to lose, only the entire world to gain.
If you have any question about my experience or would like to read more about my travels, feel free to visit the blog I wrote while I was away at www.AndysInSweden.Blogspot.com.
For information about studying abroad at FGCU, I encourage you all to check out the Lutgert College of Business International Student Exchange page, or the FGCU International Service page at FGCU.edu