When I first applied to study abroad for winter session 2016, I didn’t really think too hard about it. Going abroad was something everyone seemed to recommend and I figured, ‘why not? – It would be a neat resume builder.’ Throughout the whole process, from applying, to the final pre-trip meeting, it never actually felt like I was going to Fiji. We talked about it all the time, but the reality didn’t sink in until it was the day of departure. Even then, once it was real, I did not expect to come back feeling completely different about the world around me.
I give the power of words a lot of credit, but my trip to Fiji is something I struggle to detail. Secondhand explanations just can’t do it justice. I fell in love with a culture that was just what I needed. I fell in love with the traditional song and dance, with “Fiji Time”, with the complete openness and welcoming nature of the Fijians. Of course it was beautiful, it’s Fiji, but I got so much out of being there besides pretty pictures (especially since my phone was stolen and I lost a good amount of them). Being fully immersed in a way of life so different from my own with a new group of people all unlike me, I learned a lot about who exactly “Maddy Williams” really is.
The best way to explain this is with an anecdote: The day I went to swim with sharks. No one else in my group wanted to come with me, but I decided to go forward and do it anyway. I woke up early the morning of to catch a bus traveling a city away. These buses were open to the air with no window panes and full of Fijians staring at me, not used to seeing white tourists take the local transportation. From the next city I took another bus to another city and from there a boat to another island completely. I did my thing, swam with some sharks, and took the return trip all over again. All in the entire trip took all day. I was nervous to take this journey by myself, especially since I don’t even regularly take the buses here on campus. But after it was over? I was so proud of myself for doing something I really wanted to do. I didn’t compromise and miss this once in a lifetime opportunity simply because no one wanted to come. I really came out of my shell, both talking to people on the bus and making friends on the island. I do not regret one second of the excursion.
Now that I am back here on good ole ‘Merican soil, I find myself thinking differently. I miss Fiji and the friends I made there. I think about how my actions and the actions of my country affect the world at large. I feel more mature and sure of myself. Trust me when I say this; studying abroad was one of the best things I have ever done. My experiences will stay with me the rest of my life and it comes highly recommended.