What Now? by Claire Bens

Claire Bens is a junior at Ohio University, majoring in political and global studies, focusing on peace and war. Claire is currently studying in Hyderabad, India at the Universidad Hyderabad.

How was study abroad? What was your favorite part? Are you glad to be back? These are the questions I will be facing when I come home and I am trying to imagine what I will do and what I will say. This is what I’ve come up with:

I can’t tell you my favorite part of study abroad, I can give you a clichéd answer like “the people” or “learning about a new culture” but that doesn’t begin to touch on the feelings, experience, and awe-inspiring moments that have defined this year. I am 20 years old and I have already checked off my bucket list the vineyards of Mendoza, speaking a second language, seeing the Taj Mahal, riding an Elephant, and living abroad. But perhaps the more meaningful experiences of my study abroad were the unexpected ones, staying in an indigenous community in the south of Chile, stargazing in Valle del Elqui, playing holi in India, and participating in political marches. Study abroad came with a set of challenges to my will and my sanity. I have worked the Indian railway system and faced language barriers and slept in every type of station and airport and bus stop imaginable. And these challenges have changed me, made me a stronger communicator, a more confident question-asker, a more stable personality.

So what next? I emerge from a year of living a life that my friends and family can never fully understand. Each study abroad is unique and each person experiences it differently.  So, I have to make it a part of who I am in the little ways; cooking Indian meals, speaking Spanish, talking to my friends from this year. I wouldn’t have traded this year for an easier year living in the US or studying abroad in Europe. I may have done study abroad the difficult way with two programs in two different parts of the world but I have learned and lived more in 9 months than ever before. So more than ever before I will tell people who haven’t studied abroad to do it, for those who have to do it again, and for everyone else to travel and visit these amazing countries, my two homes-away-from-home, and every other country.

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