I’ve just finished my second week of winter quarter back at Western. It’s been a bit weird being back in Bellingham and the transition back was a bit rough. I was back in Olympia with my family for about a week before moving up here, and I was still figuring out my housing situation as I was moving. It’s been a very stressful past couple of weeks. Also I am really missing Finland right now. My routine, the people, the snow, the not-having-to-go-to-work. But now it’s back to reality and I need to get into gear.
I just realized I’m making it sound like it’s been terrible. It’s actually really nice to be back. I missed Washington. It’s actually even prettier than Finland, and much more diverse of course. I missed good food! And I get to see all my friends again, which is awesome. I’ve really missed them. The other day they threw me a welcome back party. It was my first ever surprise party and it made me happy to be back.
But enough about coming back. I want to reflect on my time in Finland. I would say the most important part of my semester abroad was all the people I met and the things I learned from them. I learned about different cultures and histories and opinions which really broadened my perspective of the world. There are so many things going on in the world I never even think about or haven’t even heard about that I do now. But the most important thing I learned was how similar people are all over. Maybe that applies much more to my generation thanks to the internet, but even so, I now know that Europeans are very culturally similar to Americans.
That also ties in to one regret I have about choosing Finland. As I said in my previous blogs, it was too similar to Washington. The landscape looked like Washington but with no mountains, and the people were similar too. If I were to study abroad again, I would consider choosing somewhere more culturally and environmentally different.
Another really important thing I learned is that the grass really is always greener on the other side. Europeans romanticize America the same way Americans romanticize Europe. But no country is better than another and they each have their own advantages and disadvantages. In terms of ease of life and difference in culture, I didn’t find Europe to be anything magical or drastically different. This trip abroad actually gave me a new perspective on my own country. I am now content and proud to be an American, because we are a giant, extremely diverse, country of immigrants and we somehow make it work (kind of). And the rest of the world still looks up to us because we are the leaders in many major industries. All that being said, I would still like to live and work/study abroad because it allows me to learn more about the rest of the world while also giving me these new perspectives of my own country.
It’s not just new perspectives that I gained while living abroad, I also learned more about myself. I learned more about my likes and dislikes, the kind of people I like being around, the things I like to do in my free time (I wouldn’t have gotten into video editing had I never traveled). I just did a lot of general growing as a person. As I’m typing this I realize how cliche this all sounds, but traveling really does broaden your perspectives and help you grow as a person and all that. I will definitely continue to travel throughout my life.