1. I’m so much more independent than I thought

Before I went abroad, I constantly found myself doing things to make my parents happy. Every move I made, I found myself thinking of how my parents would react, and I needed their reassurance for everything. Going abroad gave me the push I needed to be independent, and when I was away, it gave me a breath of fresh air. I could finally do things on my own.

  1. Life is more than working

In the United States, work is everything. We as students go to school (for what seems like forever) to find something we enjoy enough to devote the rest of our lives to. I realized abroad that there is so much more out there in the world than work. Going abroad really made me change my complete career plan in order to travel and explore more with my future family.

  1. Never say no to new experiences (be open-minded!)

I admit I’ve always stayed on the safer side of things. Going abroad made me so much more open to new experiences and I can truly say I walked away from the semester with no regrets.

  1. Strangers are nicer than you think

The hardest thing about my trip (by far) was the language barrier. Throughout my 105-day journey, I realized that asking questions isn’t as bad as it sounds, and I actually met multiple remarkable people along the way.

  1. Going out of your comfort zone is GOOD

In an unfamiliar culture, trying new foods and drinks can be frightening, but it was amazing to see the joy on my host family’s face when I tried things I never had before.

  1. How I adapt to new environments

The first week abroad, I had learned I would be living without hot water, clean tap water, and air conditioning in one of the hottest countries I had ever been to. At first, I wanted to cry but I adapted quicker than I ever thought I would. After a while, I even enjoyed the cold showers 🙂

  1. The importance of sharing

I have always learned ‘sharing is caring’, but I had never known how essential that phrase was until I went abroad. I shared almost everything I had with my host family, including food, clothes, and toiletries and the look on their faces every single time was priceless.

  1. What patience truly is

In the United States, everything is done VERY quickly and efficiently. In other countries, it may take a few hours to travel a few miles or go out to dinner. My patience was definitely tested, but at the same time I grew so much closer to the other students and participants in my program because of the extra time we had together.

  1. What really needs to be focused on

Before I left, yes I was focused mainly on schoolwork, but I also was focused on finding my prince charming and making sure I was all caught up on my favorite reality TV shows. Now, I realize how senseless it was to focus my energy into those things especially when I had so many other things to concentrate on.


This was one thing I realized almost every day I was gone. I knew I was blessed before I left, but seeing some of the living conditions other people had really opened my eyes to how fortunate I am. I have a great family, an amazing support system, and an incredible education; I could not ask for more.


Laura Wagener
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic