“Abby (me) from Four Months Ago”
“Abby (me) from Four Months Ago” wrote an essay for the consideration of IBS to award her with a scholarship to attend their study abroad program to Europe over winter break. The essay was all about the personal, professional, and academic aspects in which she planned to benefit and grow from the program. It was very entertaining for me to read the goals she set for herself to achieve while attending this abroad program. The goals she mentioned were very genuine and straight from her heart. She wanted a completely new perspective.
What blew my mind while reading the scholarship essay back to myself is that I achieved every single one of my goals. I think it is so surprising to me because I placed a lot of importance on the goals I planned to achieve before I left, but I only recall thinking about my goals several times during the actual program. I was surprised to find that it was possible to grow so much without making much conscious effort to do so. After putting a great deal of thought into how this could be, I concluded that the experience gives you absolutely no option but to grow. You are completely out of your comfort zone. Everything you do in a foreign country is a completely new experience. Even something as mundane as walking to a bus stop turns into walking to a bus stop—in Paris. The fact of the matter is that you are somewhere new. You have broken out of your normal routine. Your brain must work overtime whether you realize it or not.
In my scholarship essay, I asked “What better way to change the way I look at the world than actually going to see the world?” If I had to sum up what IBS has done for my development—personally and professionally—I would say that this program gave me a completely new perspective on the world. This statement is very broad on purpose. I grew so much in so many ways, but all of my growth can easily be summed up into just that. Seeing the world from a completely different perspective.
“Abby from Four Months Ago” wrote, in order to benefit personally, she hoped to become more adaptable and independent, more confident in her own abilities, and she hoped to gain a deeper understanding of herself.
First off, you are in a huge group with thirty-eight completely new peers and six completely new leaders (and their spouses and/or children). Functioning with this big group requires a great deal of adaptability because on an average day at home you probably only have to consider yourself and maybe your roommates or immediate family. Then, you put yourself and this completely new big group of nearly fifty people into several different foreign countries and there is a completely new level of adaptability required. And then when you consider all the different personalities, interests, plans, and goals inside of this big group, inside foreign countries, you begin to understand exactly how complex the situation is and just how much you actually have to adapt, although maybe not consciously.
After stating how important the size of the group was in terms of adaptability, you may wonder how I became more independent from the experience. Well, before this trip, I had only ever been outside of the country on a cruise. The experiences in those foreign countries were limited solely to the excursions lead completely by the excursion guides. The IBS program could be compared to a cruise excursion in the characteristic that you are in a completely foreign place but you have leaders to keep you informed and safe. But, unlike a cruise excursion, you have free time on your trip with International Business Seminars. Free time during which you must decide who you will go places with, what y’all will do, how long y’all will be doing these activities, etc. So, you learn to be independent (from leaders) in foreign countries, only having yourself and your peers to rely on.
But, I will say that I have also gained a different form of independence that goes hand in hand with being more confident in my own abilities. Before, the idea of leaving the country was completely foreign and completely scary. I would have never decided to leave the country on my own, and honestly, it was never an option because I refused to entertain something so uncertain as a possibility for my future. I did not consider how this hindered my ability to take full advantage of opportunities that could land before me, such as an internship in a different country or maybe even a traveling career in the future. But after experiencing foreign countries with leaders as well as with only my peers, I am much more confident in my own abilities. You may have heard the saying “You’ll never know unless you try,” and the IBS programs are the perfect training wheels to set you up for a fantastic ride.
The completely new perspective
With becoming more adaptable, more independent, and more confident in my own abilities, I also gained a deeper understanding of myself. On a surface level, I learned activities, circumstances, places, and even traits that I like and dislike. On a deeper level, I had quite a few realizations about my outlook on life as well as my ultimate goals in life.
“Abby from Four Months Ago” also wrote she wanted to gain professional exposure. By professional exposure, she meant she wanted to learn more about real jobs in the business field. “Abby from Four Months Ago” knew she was going to college to get a bachelor’s degree in finance, but she had no idea what that really meant. She didn’t know what the jobs in her career field actually consisted of. She also wanted to be exposed to completely new things to hopefully discover new interests to help her find a career path that she knew she would genuinely enjoy.
Prior to the trip, I was aware that this was more professional exposure than I had experienced in my entire life. I knew that I would learn a lot but I had no idea what was in store for me.
The companies and topics visited during my trip were so widespread. From foreign politics to foreign franchises to worldwide marketing to successful entrepreneurs, I was introduced to so much new information. It enabled me to look at my college career completely differently. I am now aware of many different paths available to me come graduation—yet, I know that my options don’t stop where my knowledge of possible paths does. After my trip with IBS, I have a completely renewed thirst for knowledge, not only in my professional field but in all other aspects of life. For example, before my trip, I was passively learning some Spanish. But at the rate I was learning I would’ve been lucky to achieve Spanish vocabulary abilities comparable to a seven-year-old by the time I reached my eightieth birthday. And I was proud of my limited Spanish vocabulary. But, after visiting countries where you can identify five languages being spoken around you in public at any given moment, you begin to realize how silly it is for us to only speak one language. Since my trip, I have been actively learning French as well as continuing my efforts to learn Spanish. This actually is not hard to do when you realize that the time you spend on social media every day does very little to better you as a person while the same amount of time dedicated to learning is much more beneficial to you. This is only a single epiphany that my trip lead me to. This trip gave way for my leadership qualities to blossom. I have noticed myself show greater creativity and passion, as well as better communication and understanding than ever before—and the list does not stop there.
The best thing about this trip is that I continue to have epiphanies and gain more insight from the trip to this day, even though I have been home for weeks. International Business Seminars planted a seed inside of me that I know I will continue to benefit from for the rest of my life. It sure is hard to believe that all this growth took place in only eleven days.