Studying abroad

2 ½ years ago I was thinking about doing my Masters in the USA and running in the NCAA. I started talking to universities, flew from Germany to the US and visited three universities to see where I wanted to end up. That was exactly two years ago, and I know it sounds cliché, but two years ago I wouldn’t believe where I am now. I was so excited to go to the USA and nervous to make the right decision and choose the right university, track team and program. It was nerve-wracking.

Well, two years later, you would think I could look back on my decision and say if I made the right one.

I wouldn’t say yes, but I wouldn’t say no either. It may not have been the right decision in all respects, but it was an essential, critical decision that I made to become who I am today.

When I was planning to go to the USA, I had certain expectations and ideas about my future and what it would be like to live in the USA. Honestly, not many of those ideas turned out to be true. The transition of moving to the US was much more challenging than I thought it would be.

I was, on average, four years older than usual when you decided to study in the US, so I thought it couldn’t be that hard. I already lived on my own for 4 years. I would call myself pretty mature, and I got to know myself more in those 4 years. This is true, but this transition was also extremely challenging for me, being 22 years old.

I knew some friends who studied in the USA, so I thought I knew what to expect. Well, I was wrong…

Just because other people tell you about THEIR experiences doesn’t mean you are prepared and won’t be overwhelmed. I needed time to adjust. I enjoyed training in the South Carolina sun but had to adjust to the US lifestyle.

When you live in Germany, you can take a bus, train, bike, or walk to wherever you want to go. This is not the case in the USA. You really need a car or at least a scooter to get around. Without that, you are completely dependent on others to help you all the time.

The people are also different culturally. I think most people seem really nice at first, but it took me a while to find people who were not just nice to me but really cared about me. This is a big difference and it is always a challenge to find people who really care about you and you can rely on.

Another thing I still have to get used to is the fact that not every city is nice and has nice things to offer. I struggled to ever feel like Columbia, SC, was my home. I struggled to find myself happy being away from my support system and friends and having to build it all up on my own without my family around. I honestly didn’t really build that system until now.

I was busy all the time, studying, practicing, rehab, and everyday things, so I wasn’t sad 24/7, but I wouldn’t call myself happy here either. And that was new to me. That was something I had to learn to accept and also accept that I needed a lot more time than I thought to adjust.

The expectation of going to the USA, having an excellent track team, getting my Master’s in my dream field, and improving my times to achieve my athletic goals was not the case for me. I needed time to adjust and also time to get to know myself better.

What I’ve described so far doesn’t seem like the best experience I had in the USA. That is true. But it is a time in which I personally grew more than I could have grown in just one year in Germany. I have learned so many things about myself and what I want to do with my life.

Some of my views on life changed during this time, and some of them were hard to accept at first, and I am still working on accepting others. But it pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and made me the person I am today.

I will talk more about my specific experience on an SEC team and what life lessons I learned for myself.

To wrap this up, I would like to emphasize that expectations and reality are often not the same. However, we learn from everything. In my experience, unexpected and unplanned hard times have taught me even more than the things I planned.

Stay tuned for more about my experience studying abroad and being a Track athlete.

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2 thoughts on “Studying abroad”

    1. This is a great question, and I am sure everyone has a different answer! I think that expectations are a great driving force in our lives. However, expectations often end up not being the reality, which is why we are disappointed. Just because the reality is different doesn’t mean it’s worse, it’s just different. But because we had expectations in our mind, we tend to see these differences as negative. Less or no expectations will give you more space to really experience it as it is. But how do we stop having expectations and still aspire to something new? I think getting to that point is a real journey, that can be more fullfilling in the longterm.
      Thanks for the great input!

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