Why Everyone Should Have an International Study Experience

October 12, 2015

My life changed drastically ever since I left for my Erasmus semester in Barcelona in August 2013. After all, having weighed the pros and cons for four years, I left with that exact goal: to change my life (and myself) drastically. Even though I chose to return to places I already knew from having been in Barcelona before (as I always used to do, playing it safe), it was my intention – like an unconsciously made New Year’s resolution – to finally get out of my comfort zone. I guess that is very much in fashion lately, right? “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and all. Well, it ended up being a very useful mantra for me in hindsight.

The Erasmus semester came at the perfect time in my life. I was finally open to catching the bull by the horns and to do something about my insecurities, shortcomings and influenceable character. And I actually started doing something about it as soon as I arrived at my host mom’s place. Small steps, tiny steps, but the important thing was that they went forward.

What I learned in the end – and what I also described in my Erasmus Diary – is that I control my own life, and that I don’t need to be lived. I always felt like everything that came in my path, everything that I attempted, was out of my hands. But the truth is, if you really want something, you can do anything. And that is a message I would like to share with you guys. It’s up to you to do something with it though!

If you have been following my blog from the start, or have read some fragments of older blogposts, maybe you have noticed some changes in me. Maybe you can’t exactly put your finger on it, but you might see me differently now. Maybe I sound or write differently. Such changes occur very gradually. And they don’t come easily. I literally shed blood, sweat and tears to get where I am now. My priorities have changed. Now they are usually where I want them to be.

I believe – and somehow I already knew this six years ago – that going abroad with the Erasmus program was exactly what I needed. It gave me direction again and made me realize what it was that I needed for myself. And to learn to listen to my own ideas (and to really believe in them as well), instead of always trusting other people’s ideas.

That is how I finally ended up enrolling in the 3CMGM program. Up until half a year ago I was so not ready for that. Even when I decided to apply at the Antwerp Management School I wasn’t really ready yet. But in my heart, I knew this was the next that I needed. The next step after Erasmus. My brain tried to nip this little idea of mine in the butt though. Also the people around me kept pointing out the downsides of enrolling in an expensive program as this one, but the benefits – however tiny they may seem to outsiders – by far outweighed the cons for me. And, in the end, it is me who has to decide and it is me who has to go out there and do it. Catch the bull by the horns.

Of course I couldn’t have done all of this by myself. I met so many incredible people this year who told me the right stories at the right times. Who encouraged me to take those tiny steps until I dared to step out of my comfort zone. Who almost had to hold my hand and drag me along or give me that final push in the back. Who reached out to me when it got difficult.

But I have to repeat: it is you who has to give your own life direction. Even if you don’t know (yet) which direction that is exactly, you will get there eventually. Even if you have to make a giant detour (like is usually the case for me). And you will probably arrive all exhausted, sweaty and in tears, but in the end you will realize… it was totally worth it.

During these last fives years, my life has changed drastically. It has brought to me where I am now. And this journey I will share with you guys as well. Because I can imagine someone out there might need that little push that I needed as well. Even if that one person recognizes themselves in my story a tiny bit, I hope I can have a positive impact on them.

I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to discover what this year has in store for me! Will you be there to discover it with me?

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