Myrna Landa from Honduras shares how her exchange experience studying in the United States changed her for the better.
I was a little girl but I still remember those times when my mom highlighted the importance of education, fighting for my dreams and achieving goals. Regardless of the fact that most people consider studying abroad like a cool chance to visit places or meeting new people, only those who have been abroad know that being an exchange student goes beyond that.
When it was time to go to the United States, leaving my family, friends, colleagues and country to meet new people with different customs, behavior and ideas from mine turned more real than ever. Fortunately, these new people enriched my days in the U.S., from that moment they forever inhabit my heart.
Adjusting to a new culture is probably one of the biggest tasks during this experience; an exploration to a new country, language, beliefs and social environment. A new education system welcomed with a wonderful campus and facilities. The expertise and dedication of my professors made this experience the best, however, demanding by having me go out of my comfort zone by expressing my points of view, investing more time with books and online resources in order to acquire and sharpen my skills.
Moreover, the greatest lessons were developed outside the classroom: the ladies talking with me on the bus, the people in the supermarket, cafeterias, university offices until that day that I started to speak in Spanish to the cashier because I was so sick and my brain was not connected to my tongue at all. The anecdotes and stories led me to go deeper into myself. My weaknesses and fears were exposed, but what made the difference was my response to every situation and the people who supported me.
Just a highlight of the different experiences and situations from my time at Kent State University:
- I lost my passport
- I got locked out of my room
- Stared at the snow
- Posed for a final photography project for another student
- I was featured in an article in the Daily Kent Stater, the student newspaper
- I presented about Honduras during Homecoming and in the residence halls
- My mom passed away, making me go to unthinkable places during the saddest moment of my life
These experiences reminded me that life is short, unpredictable and defiant. These experiences made me reflect the best of me, otherwise, life would be plain, awful and gray.
Time passed and there I was overcoming daily challenges, becoming a new version of me, more mature, capable, conscious and aware of those things and the people I previously took for granted. Coming back home after my exchange experience has given me the two sides of the coin: the beauty and safeness of my exchange program in the land of freedom and opportunity and the reality of readjusting to my native environment again. To all those exchange students remember that when our dreams are bigger than our fears we become unstoppable.
*Special gratitude to God, my family, World Learning Program, Kent State University, U.S. Department of State, KSU students, fellow UGRADers and the Toads (UNAH).