Ever Been to the Netherlands?
Probably the biggest chance I have ever taken was when I decided to study abroad in Utrecht, Netherlands, for six weeks in the summer of 2010. I had never been to Europe or been farther than the 120 or so miles between Gainesville and Orlando from my family. However, I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and do something crazy and different, so I went for it.
As soon as I got off of the plane, I knew it was going to be a challenge and was unsure if I had made the right decision. From figuring out what train or bus to take to what food to order, I was constantly being put in unfamiliar situations. I only had one option: trial and error. Sure I had done a little bit of research beforehand, but nothing can really prepare you for a new country until you're there. Having to make tough decisions and figuring out how to deal with unfamiliar situations helped me to grow as a person in a way that I would not have had the opportunity to if I had stayed in my comfort zone.
At Universiteit Utrecht I took a six-credit Doing Business in Europe Program where I learned about the European Union, European business models, and did a week-long business simulation game. I was able to meet and work in teams with people from Singapore, Europe, Canada, Florida, and countless other places. Discussing problems with many diffent and diverse people helped me to learn more about the world and grow as a person. I learned great principles that apply to European as well as American businesses and know that I will be able to draw from these principles in my future business endeavors.
During the fifth week of the program, the entire class took a trip to Biella, Italy. While there, we got to experience a completely different landscape and culture. Biella was mountainous, many of the locals did not speak English, and the authentic Italian food was incredible. Because Biella is known for its textile industry, we visited various textile manufacturing companies that supplied fabric to the likes of Ralph Lauren and Gucci. I learned a lot about Italian manufacturing and business structures and really enjoyed such a unique experience.
My study abroad experience is a great example of why you should not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Doing so will lead to the greatest development and the best life experiences.