In a few weeks, I will leave to spend my entire senior year abroad in Chile, completely and absolutely out of my comfort zone. A pretty big decision, I know, but interestingly enough, this whole process started with a very small decision—the decision to read a new book. I had just finished the one I was reading, and I needed something new. I asked my mom for a recommendation. She recommended a book she had read a few years ago when she was trying to make a plan to help me apply for colleges.
The Global Student, by Maya Frost, is a book filled with tips and tricks for getting a good education. Mostly, however, it emphasizes the importance of getting a global education in this increasingly globalized society. As I read through the multitude of interviews with former exchange students that were published in the book, I heard countless people gush about how much the experience changed their lives, propelled them to success, helped them find their passions, and how they would not trade their year abroad for the world. I simply thought, “I would be crazy to pass up an opportunity like this!”
Getting my parents on board, surprisingly enough, was not difficult at all. My mom had given me the book in the first place, so she always knew this was a possibility, and my dad is completely obsessed with other cultures—we have a house in Rosarito, Mexico and he is down there speaking the language every weekend—so he is supportive of anything that will broaden my horizons to the rest of the world.
Once I realized that this had moved from being an abstract dream to something that could actually happen, I began to work on the logistics of it all. My first hurdle: school. If I was going to be in another country my entire senior year, how would I be able to graduate on time? After a few days of scrambling, some amazing people in the guidance office at my school found my perfect solution. I could stay in all my regular junior year classes (5 APs was stressful enough) and then take the core requirements that I needed to complete during senior year through an independent study program called Fresh Start. This means that I technically graduated from high school this year instead of next, leaving my would-have-been senior year open to study abroad without worrying about transferring credits or repeating a year. I know all my extra work this year set me up for an amazing learning experience next year that I could never get in a classroom.
From the moment I picked up that book, everything about this decision has fallen into place. I haven’t had any huge hurdles to jump over or problems to deal with. I feel like everything around me is pointing me in this direction. I know some people probably think I’m crazy, or I’m giving up my education, or I’m putting myself in danger, or about a million other concerns. I know that this will not be easy, and that I will be an outsider in a country whose language I do not speak, and that I will be homesick, and that applying to colleges from a foreign country will probably be my biggest challenge yet. However, above all of these things, I know that I want to do this. I want to have an experience that I could never get in a classroom, or even in the United States. I want to learn about myself, and about the world I live in, and I want to be more than just one more kid from Southern California who takes the well-trodden path. I want to be bold, daring, and just maybe be rewarded for these qualities in the long run. I want to study abroad.