OK, so maybe you read that title and you’re like “angst, much?” But I promise, going somewhere that makes you feel like you’re just a teensy-tiny speck on our beautiful, amazing planet is something you’ll carry with you your entire life. It has been for me.
For me, I had been living in the same, mundane routine for way too long. I’d go to class or work, do whatever I had to do for the day, and then maybe, if I wasn’t too tired, I’d have some fun. Obviously, for the most part, I was stuck in a rut. I had my own little world, and it didn’t revolve around much except for me, my family, and my friends. Then, I decided to study abroad.
As someone who’s never really been out on the country, choosing to study abroad in Istanbul just seemed to make sense. To my family, on the other hand, I was crazy. It was unsafe, it was too foreign, and it was huge. But now, looking back, I’m so so glad I ignored them.
I remember going from the airport to the hotel, my naïve, untraveled self thinking that it couldn’t take that long, it was a city, there were roads everywhere, these drivers knew how to drive. But then, when it took over an hour to get across the city, I realized just how small I was. It’s not a very original epiphany to have, especially in a city of 18 million, I know, but being there, seeing it, I felt so incredibly small.
I didn’t feel small in a bad way, not really. I felt small in an “oh-crap-look-at-all-these-people-who-have-their-own-lives-that-I-know-nothing-about” way. Then, I went somewhere that made me feel even smaller. Jerusalem.
I know Jerusalem isn’t as big as Istanbul, not even close. But there was something about the history, the culture, the religion in that city that made me feel like I was just a wisp in the wind (sorry that was so cheesy, but it’s true).
There was something so incredibly refreshing about being in a place where I didn’t know anyone or speak the language or know my way around. I was able to breathe.
I could be myself, without worrying that someone I knew would be watching. I could try new things, I could go new places, I could stop worrying about stupid things that don’t really matter.
Going somewhere that made me feel small let me see that I had so much living to do. It showed me that I have so many mistakes to make, so many people to meet, so many places to go. I have so much more to do.
So, go. Please. Go to Istanbul, go to Jerusalem, go to London, Paris, Madrid, New York City, Boston, San Francisco. Go to the ocean, go to the nearest city, go to the mountains. Go wherever you can to just stand still and be.
To look out and be amazed at what you were seeing. To close your eyes and understand that there’s so much more out there than just you and your little world. Because you and your own little world may be just fine, but expanding it some doesn’t hurt either.
And that was probably the the best take away from studying abroad for me, was that even though I felt tiny, my world got bigger. I made friends from different countries, different cultures, different religions. I learned new words in new languages. I started to care about issues I’d never even known about before. I recognized that I was just one person, but that my world didn’t have to be small, that I didn’t have to be small.
Because now that I’m back, I don’t feel so small anymore. I feel like I’m growing, expanding into someone new everyday. I went somewhere that made me feel small, and now I feel bigger and better than ever.