Looking forward to a semester abroad in Sweden

By ELIZABETH IM | November 21, 2019

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PUBLIC DOMAIN While it was hard to say goodbye, Im is excited for her semester abroad.

Here’s the news: I’m studying abroad this spring in Stockholm, Sweden. I have been dreaming of it since my senior year of high school and I am more than thrilled. However, I was surprised by my own hesitance to commit when I received the email that I had been accepted to the program.

As I gathered the documents for visa and course approvals, I had to break the news to others and realized how difficult it was to do so. Sure, it’s just four months away from school, but the fear of missing out began to intertwine with the excitement for a new experience. What if I miss out on important events? What if the spring semester class that seems really cool isn’t offered again before I graduate? What if I lose touch with my friends? What if this is too early?

Suddenly, there were millions of things I needed to consider, and the choice to study abroad for one semester seemed to have the power to change everything. And I realized that I appreciated Hopkins more than I had thought.

As the 2019-2020 school year started, I found myself becoming one of “those” people — I was too comfortable with the familiar here at Hopkins. I feel that in part, this came from having found my group of people; however it was also because I had got too used to being academically focused. It’s not a bad thing really, to be thus focused. It has allowed me to reflect on and plan out my future. 

However, I also stopped looking around, wandering and questioning. I circled around the campus, rarely going too far, and I was only concerned with taking classes in my major instead of exploring, as I did last year. This wasn’t who I wanted to be.

One factor that motivated me to apply to study abroad was that I wasn’t appreciating Hopkins enough. I often thought that the strong STEM culture influenced me to think that humanities are not valued. 

I also felt like many people had clear goals in mind and were rushing to leave Hopkins; every time my peers talked about jobs or medical school, I was made conscious of the fact that I didn’t have a clear idea of where I wanted to go after completing my undergraduate studies. Thus, I believed that my time away would somehow help me see things from a new perspective.

I was right. Once I was set to leave Hopkins, I began to see things differently. Even though I haven’t physically left yet, the decision itself — to go to Sweden in the spring — meant that I didn’t have a lot of time left at Hopkins this year. This motivated me to stop and reflect again.

As I started to sell my things little by little to make the move easier, I reflected on what I had accumulated over the last three semesters. 

The leaves turning scarlet from the fall wind and eventually falling off briskly were beautiful. I became more bold in reaching out to people; every time I met with friends, I gave more than my full attention to them because I wanted to make up for the time I wouldn’t be seeing them. Moreover, I had the opportunity to plan the rest of the two years I will spend at Hopkins once I return.

Even as I write this, I am amazed by how much my decision to go to Sweden for a semester has changed me already, even though I haven’t left yet. I also learned that sometimes, it really is mind over matter — the power of framing the same situation is immense. 

Nonetheless, as of Nov. 15, I turned in all of my legal documents to get ready to go to Sweden. In other words, I am really committed to going now. I don’t know how a semester in Sweden will change me further, but I look forward to it.

The decision was a hard one, yet I am so glad that it was a hard one. As Winnie the Pooh once said, “how lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard!”

The best part is, it’s not a goodbye. I’ll be back soon. In the meantime, keep in touch!

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