It has been five years, one week and three days since I returned to the US from my year abroad in the Czech Republic. I was 16 years old, not sure of what that year meant for me, happy to be back home, but itching to move on to bigger and better things. Looking back on the past five years, it is difficult to explain just how those eleven months abroad have completely changed the course of my life.
Since I got back from the Czech Republic, I applied to college and decided to attend MIT. I have realized what it means to have a best friend for life, someone who will be there for you through thick and thin. I went to college and met people whose backgrounds could not be any more different than my own. I started a student group that has flourished under the nurture of others. I have traveled to England, Holland, Uganda, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam and India. I have made friends and lost friends, I have dated and broken up, I have learned the true meaning of loneliness and the value of friendship and loyalty. I have learned how to network and how to talk to strangers. It still amazes me when people comment on how social and outgoing I can be. I have gotten jobs because of my network, and I am no longer afraid to put myself out there. I have built incredible relationships with professors and classmates that I know will serve me throughout my life and my career.
I don’t know where I would be if a 14 year old me didn’t decide that she wanted to travel around the world and live with strangers. I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t had to deal with the problems I did while I was on exchange, if I hadn’t made the friends I made. I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t learn to speak Czech. Ještě mluvím trochu česky ale nemám nikdo s kým mluvít.
I do know I probably would not have gone to MIT, I would not have lived in Mexico, in Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam or India. I would not have been studying transportation and I would not be writing this right now. Spending eleven months abroad in high school was by far one of the best decisions I ever made, the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but by far among the most rewarding.