On January 5th, 2011, I landed in London, England for what was described to be a three-month-long study experience. What they failed to tell me was that it would change my life forever. Because I had never traveled out of the country before, my parents were a little nervous when I asked them my Freshman year of college if I could study abroad for a semester during my Junior year. Yes, they were nervous because of my safety, but they were also uneasy because of how costly certain programs can be. My dad had just lost his job, and though it was very possible that he would have a new job by the time I wanted to venture abroad, nothing was positive. Ergo, they told me that if I really wanted to make the journey, then I would have to pay for the entire trip on my own.
I have learned that if I truly want something, then I have to work my hardest in order to receive it; things will not simply be handed to me like they are for many of my friends. Let me say that after summers and semesters of working full time, interning, and taking classes to accomplish my goal and then spending three months in London, I truly believe that anything is possible. If a person really wants something, then he or she is capable of receiving it. If he or she does actually achieve that goal, then it will never be taken granted for. This type of lifestyle helps individuals decide between things they really want and those which are only desired for a short time. When people are able to find what they are passionate about, then nothing will be able to stand in their path.
My experience with SAI attending the University of the Arts in London was absolutely life-changing. Studying Photography in one of the most historical and magical cities in the entire world really has an effect on a person. I was able to really figure out who I was as a person and what it is I am passionate about in life. The excursions, such as outings to Borough Market and Jack the Ripper tours at night, were a great way to meet friends whom I am still very close to and who have impacted me in an astounding way. When I went to London in early January, I set foot out of the country for the first time. My dream which I had saved up for finally came true after two years. When I traveled back to the United States mid-April, I arrived as a new person. I had evolved from never having been out of the country to having traveled to fourteen cities in seven different countries.
People always ask me if I changed during my trip. I always respond that I simply grew up. Sure, I do feel different in the sense that I made friends with so many unique people from different cultures and roamed unknown lands for three months. However, the biggest change was within myself as an individual. I am not saying that the “inner-Melissa” has changed; I simply mean that I found that internal person whom I had been trying to find for years. My personality has not changed; I am still all here. I merely matured a lot during my journey and was finally able to decide exactly what I want in the world and who I desire to be.
It was a complete epiphany to realize that there is so much in this world to explore when I had never stepped foot out of this one country until January. I remember walking across Abbey Road with my friend exclaiming, “I cannot believe I’ve been missing out on this for all of these years!” I came back to America with so many more goals that I wish to achieve. The interesting part is that every single one of my new ideas for after I graduate in May is extreme. They involve organizations in many different areas in the world.
My main goal after I graduate is to return to London in the near future in order to live in the city that once made me so alive. Well, I have my new dream and am very determined to make it happen. I have hope for the future; it’s like I said, I have a life to start living, and my trip with SAI was the cause of this new epiphany.