As I reflect on my semester abroad, I think back to the conclusion of my junior fall at Fairfield. I will never forget this period, marked by little motivation and an overall sense of unhappiness. 

Deep down, I recognized that I had outgrown my living situation and the people I was surrounding myself with. I needed change to feel like myself again. It was then that I made the decision that continues to bring me lasting happiness.

My semester in London stands as undoubtedly the best three and a half months of my life. From meeting new people to traveling around Europe, I realized that the world extends far beyond the confines of my tiny hometown—it is far grander and more interconnected. 

I thrived both academically in London and grew as a person. This past semester in London wasn’t just an educational journey; it was a journey of self-discovery and expansion. I learned that the world is more complex than we think, filled with diverse cultures, perspectives and opportunities. The bustling metropolis of London became a place of personal evolution for me, pushing me beyond the comfort zones of my hometown and teaching me resilience and adaptability. 

As I reflect on these transformative months, academic achievements and personal growth, I realize this new version could have never become if I had not made the choice to study abroad. 

London became a place where I discovered how to genuinely love myself and cultivate gratitude for the individuals surrounding me. Through my journey, I was fortunate to share an apartment with two remarkable flatmates, Ashlin and Hannah, who imparted a crucial lesson to me about the profound influence of the people we choose to surround ourselves with in shaping our personal growth and success. 

The company we keep in our lives plays a crucial role in our overall well-being. When one surrounds oneself with individuals who genuinely wish for their happiness and success, it brings a positive perspective on life. Moving forward, I carry with me the valuable insights gained from their positive influence.

From an academic and career standpoint, I was able to realize my full potential, not only as a student, but as a prospective job candidate. Studying in London has allowed me to develop the invaluable skill of adaptability—a quality that is not easily achieved. Navigating through cities like Dublin, Paris and Athens, I developed the ability to quickly adapt to new environments and connect with people, whether traveling solo or with people whom I had never met before. 

In the dynamic landscape of today’s workplaces, adaptability is critical in order to be successful. This trait has not only enhanced my ability to respond to unexpected changes, such as delayed flights or language barriers; it also influenced me to embrace change and innovation. Having successfully adapted to diverse academic, cultural and societal settings during my time in London and other cities, I am confident in my ability to approach new projects, responsibilities and to collaborate with an open mind and a willingness to learn. 

All of the cities I visited greeted me for the first time, and I had no idea what to expect or where to go. By extensively researching how to travel the safest and most effective way, while balancing my academics and internship, I learned how to manage time effectively and to be resourceful.

It feels surreal to say that I am now extremely grateful for navigating what was definitely the lowest point in my life. This semester has brought me to the realization that the paths of our personal and professional growth are anything but linear. Whether the challenges come from a personal or a career standpoint, experiencing disappointment or rejection and getting hurt in some shape or form—it is inevitable and often beyond our control. 

What remains within our control, however, is our reaction to these setbacks and the choices we make to move forward. In the face of adversity last year, I made a conscious decision to move forward, even if it meant I had to stop being myself for some time. I took every possible step to create an opportunity to study abroad one last time before graduation, even though it meant juggling six classes, an internship, multiple jobs and maintaining my personal health. 

It is important to take note that even though you are in a different setting, you will face challenges, but you would not be growing if you did not. From emergency room visits alone to getting lost in the city, I gained confidence that all the setbacks I’ve encountered have led me to better things in life, even if it means going backwards again before going back up. 

Resilience and determination can always lead to overcoming challenges, no matter how long it takes. It underscored the importance of steering our paths toward growth, even when it is a struggle to get out of bed in the morning. 

As I continue on my journey, I carry with me the knowledge that setbacks are not roadblocks but opportunities for personal and professional development. It feels great to say I am finally happy, and so eager to begin my career journey. I am so grateful that I had such an amazing experience and was able to form close relationships with people who make leaving so difficult. 

I know I will carry these relationships and lessons with me throughout my career and personal life.

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