A little over five years ago, I studied abroad in the beautiful spa town of Cheltenham, England for a life-changing three months. Although short, my time abroad was transformative in ways that have influenced my life every day since.
Nervous and very excited, I boarded the plane in Baltimore, Maryland, not knowing what adventures I would encounter. The setting of Perranporth, Cornwall, where we had orientation, could not have been more charming. I remember thinking to myself that I’ve never seen a place so beautiful. I experienced my first hostel with the Fall 2012 Cheltenham cohort. In that funky hostel, I got to know my lovely, fellow Americans, one of whom is now one of my bridesmaids! We quickly familiarized ourselves with each other – that’s just the way it was. I planned a trip to a different country with a little group of six people, also known as the F.R.I.E.N.D.S., after knowing them for maybe two weeks. There’s nothing like a little travel to foster group bonding!
My many travels in those months were marvelous: Tasting the cuisine of France and Italy was an amazing experience all on its own. Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower and seeing it sparkle at night. Throwing coins in the Trevi fountain. Climbing the 463 steps of the Duomo to an incredible view of Florence. Climbing to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral to a spectacular view of London. Learning traditional Irish songs on a pub crawl in Dublin. Making lasting friendships and meeting an English fresher in the flat next door who is now my fiance. I could go on and on – those three months abroad were filled so many experiences that have left an impression on me and are memories that I’ll never forget.
I learned to quickly adapt to the British way of life and embrace it. Extra “u”s in words and that beautiful English accent were novelties that I never grew tired of. Clotted cream and scones were a delight. The English way of life was simply lovely. Returning to Baltimore after a semester at the University of Gloucestershire, I knew my life would never be the same – and that the travel bug would not be leaving anytime soon, if ever. I had high hopes for my adventure abroad and I’m so happy to report that it surpassed my expectations in countless ways.
I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced a more transformative time than when I studied abroad (the first time). Of course, I had to return to pursue my passion by enrolling in a Masters in Photography program at the University of Gloucestershire when the opportunity presented itself. I craved more time in the beautiful town of Cheltenham.
Now, five years later, I realize that studying abroad sparked a passion for travel that has led me to nearly 20 countries and to a job at another study abroad company. The travel bug is still in my system, and I still yearn for more travel every day. I am a more compassionate, understanding individual because of my time abroad. I’ve learned to go with the flow, and I have discovered that sometimes an experience can really be better than you’ve ever imagined if you just take a leap of faith and adventure beyond your comfort zone. Happy travels!
Jackie is passionate about all things travel and photography. She is a graduate of Elizabethown College and the University of Gloucestershire and currently lives in Portland, Maine.