The Big Takeaway From Studying Abroad

I’M BAAACCCKKKK!!!! (Chanting in the background: USA, USA!)

I have traveled to Scotland, learned in Scotland, interned in Scotland, I have lived in Scotland, and now I’m back. It is great to be back in the States, in my home state of Iowa, and back on the campus I love!

So, are you pondering the idea of studying abroad? Great, now keep pondering and listen up because this post is for you! I hope this blog gives you some insight on studying abroad and that it erases some of those hesitations you have about saying yes to studying abroad. Below you can find ‘Carter’s big take away’ from studying abroad.

First, I’m going to be brutally honest. When you study abroad you drop everything in your day-to-day life at Iowa State/Ames, or where ever you call home. You basically hit pause on your life in the USA. You are no longer holding leader positions in clubs, you are no longer seeing your favorite peers in classes, and your friends and family relationships will change to online relationships via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Skype. Liking, retweeting, and commenting on social media will become your three best friends. Sounds daunting, right? Now of course thanks to today’s technologies you can still be well informed, well connected, and in-touch with ISU while you are abroad, but the act of pausing your life back home is kind of required to pursue completely new adventures in a completely different country. Once I realized that I needed to do this, I loved Scotland even more.

Studying abroad isn’t easy, but it will be something that will change your life forever and I think every student should study abroad. You see, the reality is the benefit you receive from adventuring out and about and out of your comfort zone is 100 times better than the few rough patches or hurdles you overcome while studying abroad. Sometimes those hurdles teach you something, sometimes they teach you something about yourself, or even give you a new perspective on life. Once you jump those hurdles you also have an amazing cultural, historical, and even life-changing experiences. And the best part? You are not alone. You are never alone on jumping those hurdles, overcoming language barriers, or navigating through a large foreign city. Here’s why:

There are about 1,000 or so Iowa State students studying abroad each semester. Now if you take that average number of 1,000 and think of all the universities across the USA and then think about all the small colleges and universities that 1,000 students has just added a few more zeros. It is pretty astonishing actually to think of the massive number of college age students that are traveling across the globe right now. Think how many are traveling to different countries via trains, planes, cars or even buses at this very moment.  They are all trying to take advantage of those cultural and historical sights much like you should be when abroad. Kind of amazing, right? I thought so too.

Now it took me awhile to realize just how accompanied I was on this adventure they call study abroad. Sure I knew the staff at the Study Abroad Office at ISU was there when I needed them. (Which I did because I contracted a huge eye infection my first week in Scotland and couldn’t see for a couple of days. I had the same thing Bob Costas had during the Olympics.) I also knew all the Iowa State students studying abroad in Scotland had my back and so did a few ISU students across the United Kingdom, but it really didn’t sink in that I was never alone while I study abroad until I went to Italy for my spring break.

So some of my friends I have made while studying abroad traveled with me to Italy for an entire six days and we first stopped in Florence. We only had two nights in Florence, so we quickly hit the sights and culture and art in the city while also making sure we were enjoying ourselves and taking in the fact that we were in one of the most famous countries in the world. Early in the morning on the third day in Italy we jumped on a train to Rome where we arrived in the city center at 8 am. We quickly settled into our hostel for the next four nights and hit the metro to head to the Colosseum. After going through a decently sized line we had had our tickets into one of the most famous structures in the world. But guess what?! Not even minutes into me being a geeky tourist taking photos and selfies I ran into not one…but TWO different groups of students from ISU! THAT’S RIGHT, I travel over 4,000 miles away from ISU and I ran into fellow Cyclones within minutes! How crazy is that?! Here are photos to prove it:

Iowa State students invade Rome

This group of guys were studying in another part of the UK. They were all engineers, so I felt really smart standing next to them 🙂

Iowa State Students Invade Rome

This group of ladies and guy were studying in Spain! Cyclone Nation was everywhere in Europe!

And that’s when it hit me. Cyclone Nation has no limits and has no borders. It’s always there, even if you can’t see it and home is never really as far away as it seems. So take that leap, study abroad, and have the adventure of a lifetime. You just never know who you will run into, what you learn, and how it will change your life, but I promise you this: You are definitely never alone.


Another amazing thing about studying abroad is that people you know through different things in college will be studying abroad at the same time as you! Below my friend Dane was studying at the Iowa State Design Studios in Rome with his fellow ISU architecture peers. I know him through a scholarship we both received, the Iowa Matthew Shepard Scholarship, and I would have to say meeting up with him was one of my favorite moments abroad.

Iowa State Students Invade Rome

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