September 2, 2009

On Studying Abroad

ALANA-A Leader, Janna, reflects as she gets ready to leave for her study abroad experience

"So it's Tuesday, I leave for London on Saturday. My attempts at packing consist of putting clothing, shoes, and other items in the corner of my room. I was hoping maybe it would pack by itself, but I know it won't. For some reason this trip is becoming a huge thing for me. I have traveled outside the U.S, however mostly with family and friends. This is the first time I will be going on my own. I think it is finally starting to hit home.

I am leaving for this fall semester to do an international internship in London, England. Why am I so nervous about it? I guess the first reason is it is something new. I am excited for seeing and experiencing all that London has to offer. London has tons of different cultural areas. I am also excited to see all of England - and not just its tourist areas. I hopefully will have time to go and see things that are not always on the tourist map.

At the same time I am nervous -- nervous to see what types of perceptions people will have of me. I went to England once before. In 2004, I was fourteen at the time and, have been told, that Americans were not seen in the best light. I remember one time we were at a castle running in an open field to a doorway. One of my fellow Americans accidently knocked into a European, and the words, "Bloody Americans", was uttered.

At the time, all I thought was, "Wow, that was a rude comment". However, a few years and a lot of education/awareness later, I realize that Americans do not have the best reputation globally. From a social and global perspective, I can understand where people get the stereotype that all Americans are entitled. As I've grown into more awareness, I know that this is something I do not want to be catogorized as. I hope that this perception and stereotype has somewhat dissipated and that I can serve as a someone who does not fit that stereotype.

I think what I am looking forward to the most is meeting new people and hearing different perspectives on everything. I believe that I cannot fully understand nor judge a topic, issue or position until I have heard all sides of the story.

But, I am also excited to live outside of my comfort zone, to be challenged in new and difficult ways, and to bring my experiences back to my college campus and help raise the level of education/awareness in my peers."

We wish Janna the best of luck in London! She'll be blogging from across the Pond, so stay tuned!