I can honestly say, I never really thought I would ever study abroad. It had always been just a dream, a fantasy I never thought would come true, but then the amazing opportunity came up to go to London and I couldn’t turn it down. When I was younger my Dad coached me in soccer and one of the things he used to tell us during the half-time huddles was “remember you miss 100% of the shots you never take,” and I feel like that applies to studying abroad as well. Even though I am not shooting a ball into a soccer net, I took a shot at an experience that has changed my life. I was scared and worried about being so far away from home for so long, but it was definitely an opportunity I am so grateful I took. I would even like to consider it the “winning goal” for my life so far. Five years ago, if you asked me where I would be in my life today, I would have no idea what to predict. And, I would have never imagined that I would be sitting in my flat in London happier then I have ever been in my life. London, Germany, Ireland, Amsterdam, Italy, were all just really cool places I learned about in school, or heard about in movies. Now I can say those places are stamped in my passport. And, that’s not all my travels because I still have Paris and Spain to explore.
So, are you wondering what has made this such a great experience for me? Well, let me tell you. Not only have I been able to travel to these amazing places, but I have also learned a lot about myself and what life is like living in a whole new environment completely different from the small community of St. Norbert College. Living in London has given me the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of public transportation. At St. Norbert I rarely venture off the campus, and definitely never take any public transportation, it’s almost like living in our own little bubble on the edge of the Fox River. Even though I grew up right out side of Chicago, and have ventured into the city quite a few times a year, I would always just follow the people I went with to wherever I was going. Now I can easily read a tube map. I know how to figure out what bus to take, and the best ways to the airport. Even though public transportation is slightly different everywhere, I now would feel completely comfortable hoping on a train and figuring out where to go. London’s tube system is incredible. You honestly can get to anywhere you need to be just by hoping on a train.
Another amazing attribute about London is the ability to fly off to any part of Europe I desire for the weekend or even hop on the Euro Start to Paris for the day which I have planned. Yes, money is definitely a factor on being able to travel all over the place, but if you budget correctly, and book your flights far in advance, for example, you can travel to Italy for a lot less then flying from Chicago to Florida.
This semester abroad has made me realize how incredible life is, and how important it is to enjoy every second. It has given me the courage and confidence to step out of my comfort zone and experience things I never imagined in my wildest dreams. Joe E. Lewis said “you only live once, but if you work it right once is enough,” and I completely agree. Life can be as amazing as you want it to be as long as you work hard and take chances. Appreciate what life has to offer. There is only a little over a month before I return home, and even though I miss home, and am really excited to go back for the holidays, it is going to be so sad to leave. I have discovered a different side of me while studying abroad that I do not think would have ever surfaced if I did not take this opportunity. And, I will continue to go forward and take chances in my life.
Taylor Tencate is studying abroad in London, England, with the Foundation for International Education (FIE).