Travel Stories: From Studying to Living Abroad

My friend Kelly (@thehorizonbeckons) and I originally connected on Instagram, which is basically the most 2018 way to make friends, right? From starting with studying abroad in high school to full on living abroad now, her life is nothing short of hashtag travel goals, and I’m sure you’ll agree after reading her interesting thoughts from our interview.

Where was the first place you started your travels, and was there something that inspired you to get out there and start traveling in the first place? 

Luckily, I come from a family who loves to travel. My dad was in the Air Force and has been around the world twice over by the time I came along. Additionally, my mom has an adventurous spirit that propelled her around the world too. For me, I began my travels in the summer of my junior year of high school. During the school year, I had become friends with Julia, a German exchange student, who later invited me to spend two weeks at her home near Frankfurt. It was my first solo trip abroad. After that trip, I soon fell in love with traveling and immersing myself in new cultures - and I haven’t stopped since.

Study Abroad Travel Stories | Emily Malkowski | Lifestyle & Travel Blogger

What resources did you use to find your host families and/or study abroad opportunities? 

I spoke with friends at my university who had done semesters abroad about their experiences. From there, I did some research online to determine which program would be best for me both financially and academically. For the host families, I either found them through the program that was hosting me or through my international friends.

What do you think is the biggest challenge of living abroad? 

Being able to trust and rely on yourself - and yourself alone. It can be scary sometimes to be on your own in a place where you might not speak the language or be familiar with the culture. Yes, you most likely will have a support system or friends who can help you, but ultimately there will be moments where you have to rely on yourself and your own judgement. So trust yourself. You’re a whole lot smarter than you think and so much braver.

Do you have a favorite moment of studying/living abroad?

Several days after moving to Madrid, I had to go down to the city center to do some shopping. The only way there was by taking the metro. Up until that point, I had never used the metro on my own. If I’m being honest, I was pretty nervous. I’m from a small American town so I had never really taken public transportation before. But eventually, after getting locked out of the metro platforms (and having to explain the situation to the metro worker in broken Spanish) and then going in the wrong direction twice after my navigation on my phone stopped working, I finally made it to the shopping center. When I walked up out of the metro and saw the correct station sign, I was beyond happy. That moment, although very insignificant, proved to me that I could live abroad on my own. I’m still so proud of that “accomplishment”.

Study Abroad Travel Stories | Emily Malkowski | Lifestyle & Travel Blogger

What advice would you give someone that might want to either move abroad or find a similar study abroad program?

Be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone. When moving or studying abroad, often times you’ll be challenged, or sometimes forced, to do something that might scare you. Whether that be speaking a different language or making entirely new group of friends, being abroad places you outside what you’re used to and into an entirely foreign environment. So be ready to try new things and expand your horizons. It might be scary in the beginning, but trust me, you’ll appreciate it afterwards when you see how much you’ve grown.

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to and why?

This is such a hard question to answer. As many other travelers, different places leave their own distinct marks on your heart. Each one special and unique. So far though, I really enjoyed traveling to Morocco. During that trip, I learned the most about the world and how I perceive it. The two weeks I spent there were eye-opening. 

Study Abroad Travel Stories | Emily Malkowski | Lifestyle & Travel Blogger

How amazing is that last picture? Thanks again to Kelly for taking the time to thoughtfully answer all of my questions about living and studying abroad. If you have more questions that I didn't think of, leave them in the comments, and keep up with Kelly and all of her amazing travels on Instagram