I could contribute my avoidance of any and all study abroad plans to a sense of learned helplessness. Although I knew I would love to experience studying abroad, I felt powerless when it came to making that dream a reality. I felt powerless because of my huge list of worries and obstacles that I knew would inevitably crush my hopes and dreams of a study abroad experience. Studying abroad was something I used to think was very common when I was really young. I always looked forward to my future abroad experience as a kid, but as I got older my list of worries and obstacles only grew larger and larger. It did not take long for the list to overshadow and hide my hopes of ever studying abroad—without me even realizing it. I was able to dismiss any idea of plans to study abroad by convincing myself that it was simply an unattainable fantasy, just like many other things you think about when you are younger. It was easy to tell myself that it simply was not realistic for me to entertain the idea of picking up camp and moving to a completely different country for college. I just did not think a whole semester away from home in a foreign place was feasible.
A completely foreign place with completely foreign laws and ideas, a completely foreign currency, and so many other unknown factors. And by unknown factors, I mean completely unknown factors that I had no knowledge of; therefore, no way to even begin to consider them. And my day-to-day life was already so busy I just did not have the time to search all the information needed to make such a huge decision. I could continue to add to the long list of worries and obstacles, but I think the point has been made fairly clear.
I know that I am not the only person who is a victim of learned helplessness. I also know that there are many other students that are a victim of this particular form of learned helplessness.
The IBS Induced Epiphany
A former professor of mine was presenting information about traveling with International Business Seminars before one of my classes began. I was listening intently to this professor talk about this experience as if she was reading straight from a storybook. Suddenly my friend turned to me and said, “We should go!”
I laughed at first and then jokingly replied, “Okay, yeah, let’s go!”
I knew she couldn’t seriously think that we could go to foreign countries together, it just seemed too unreal.
But then she looked at me very seriously and told me that she really meant it—she wanted to go on the trip. Of course, I wanted to go on the trip too! Who doesn’t want to go to Europe? So, I responded by telling her that I wanted to go too, but it just was not realistic.
My friend looked back at the brochure the professor handed out before responding to me again. She finally answered by telling me to actually look at the brochure. So, I picked up my brochure and started to read it.
The first thing I noticed was the dates for the trips. Some trips were almost a month while others were barely two weeks. Almost automatically I realized that I no longer had to worry about being away from home for “too long” when considering studying abroad. The next thing I noticed was the prices. Some trips were more affordable than others, but the lower prices weren’t too far off from the money I already had in my savings account at that time. I stopped reading after that because I was beginning to see that this fantasy that was always in the back of my mind was actually attainable. Not only that, but I now had in my own hands a solid plan for something that was always so uncertain and, quite frankly, impossible in my own mind.
It was then that I realized that International Business Seminars’s program eliminated so many of the obstacles I associated with studying abroad that I had virtually no reason not to go. The execution of studying abroad suddenly became so much easier and achievable. And not only was this a program with educated leaders available and an itinerary already planned, but it was more than just “Uni” in a foreign country. This was a real-life business experience in foreign countries. All of the sudden, I realized it was doable. International Business Seminars was a game-changer for me.
Taking the Leap
I was starting to realize that I was perfectly capable of traveling and studying abroad like I used to dream when I was little. I knew I could gather the funds I needed if I set my mind to it. It turned out that the only thing that was stopping me from traveling or studying abroad was myself. And I was in the final semester of my Junior year of college. I was running out of time.
So, I decided I had to go. As soon as I got to my apartment after class, I applied to the Winter Two Europe seminar. Immediately after applying, I went straight to my search engine, grabbed a pen and paper, and started brainstorming strategies to make the trip possible. I decided I owed it to myself to make this trip a reality. I deserved this trip and I needed to prove to myself that I truly could make my fantasy a reality. And if it was possible for me to go, then I needed to follow through, because if I didn’t then I wouldn’t be doing everything I could to live my life to the fullest.
Looking back now, I am so glad that I applied to the seminar. Through my trip with IBS, I was able to discover, observe, and learn in ways that I could not have previously imagined. Not only do I have a plethora of beautiful pictures and memories to look back onto, but IBS also gifted me with a deeper insight of myself as well as beautiful friendships that will last me a lifetime. That is something that I cannot put a price tag on.
When deciding what to write this blog post about, I considered sharing some of my experiences from the trip. But, I soon realized that it would be nearly impossible for me to communicate the significance of these moments to me. So instead, I decided to write about how special this experience was for me. It truly did mold me into a new person.
Next, I want to draw attention to the fact that I nearly missed this opportunity of a lifetime simply because I let myself feel powerless. I had become complacent. I had accepted the fact that I would not ever study abroad, and I probably wouldn’t get the chance to travel to different countries until I was much older, after I achieved all of my professional goals.
This trip was a wakeup call for me. I realized that you cannot live your life waiting for your future. I realized that you are actually the pilot of your life and you are completely in control.
And while it is human nature to worry, it does not make sense to let your worries keep you from being the best you or from living your best life. It is possible to listen to and be cautious of your worries without letting them prevent you from living your life to the fullest.
So, keep in mind: Whether you think you can or you think you cannot, you are absolutely right! I would like to challenge you to question your predictable mind and stop limiting your potential and abilities because you are confusing comfort with happiness. Always strive to do better and be better.