This year, OU had it’s second annual Global Engagement day. I initially didn’t think I would be able to go because I’ve been super busy, but I managed to make it to a session where people tell their stories from abroad, and I’m glad I did. It was definitely a very nostalgic experience, because I’ve been so focused on school and rowing that I’ve gotten pretty far removed from my time abroad. I don’t even have a Chinese class this semester to keep me in touch with that experience, so Global Engagement Day was a good opportunity to spend a little more time reflecting on my time abroad. The longer I’ve been back the crazier that semester seems. I definitely spent most of my time there sitting in various coffee shops and studying, but I also did a lot of crazy things like running in the middle of the night and staying at a stranger’s house and going just a step past that one sign halfway up a hill somewhere that said to keep out. I’m really glad I took all the opportunities that I did, because I definitely don’t remember many of the vocab words that I learned, but I do remember the crazy things. Those stuck in my mind, and make for great stories now.
Global Engagement Day was also nice because I got to reconnect with the GEF’s I knew from my class, and hear their stories from abroad. Last time I saw most of them, we were just freshmen who were super excited and nervous to study abroad. It was cool to hear where everyone ended up going and how their experiences went. No matter where people went, they all had some crazy stories about things they did. I think there’s just something about going abroad for a semester that makes people take opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t take. I definitely did a lot more while abroad than I normally would, anyway. Part of it was that I was only there for a semester, and I didn’t want to miss out on anything. Part of it was just that I was succeeding at this crazy thing and it gave me the confidence to do things I wouldn’t normally do. Another part of it was that in a new place with new people, I could be a completely different person who did different things without having to explain myself to people.
Whatever the reason, I definitely am glad I had the opportunity to go abroad and do something outside my comfort zone just about every day. It definitely made me grow in ways that I don’t really notice every day, but that I can see pretty clearly when I think about my life before I went abroad. For example, now I’m so much better at talking to people, because no normal conversation can possibly be worse than two hours of wandering around speaking broken Chinese to a long string of tired airport employees who can’t help you exchange your ticket. Basically what I’m trying to say is Global Engagement Day made me reflect a bit more on my time in China, and I feel really grateful for that experience and all the great stories and memories that I have from it.