I read the separation letter to my parents on new years day over brunch at one of our favorite restaurants. We started talking about New Year’s resolutions and it seemed like the perfect time to introduce the separation letter. My parents have been very supportive of me traveling as a complement to my education and they reacted positively, as I expected they would. There were still some lingering safety concerns but after cracking a couple jokes about growing up in Baltimore the topic was dropped. The quote I used in my letter was “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail,” said by the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. I will very much be doing this as I am the first ever student that Quinnipiac is sending to Belgium.
Neither of my parents studied abroad in college but did a great deal of traveling early in their relationship. They understood that I would get a lot more out of a semester in Belgium than I would at Quinnipiac. They even told me about their experiences in Belgium, which I didn’t know they had ever been to. After spending a semester in Germany the travel bug hit me hard and it was not easy for me to swallow the fact that I would have to stay put for the next two school years. My experiences in Germany helped shaped my career aspirations and I realized that I want to work abroad or with a multinational company. I had talked to my parents about possibly going abroad again but the separation letter let me fully describe to them why I chose Belgium. It showed them that I had put in the required amount of thought for this journey.
In order for my Belgian study abroad experience to be successful I want to grow professionally and continue to build a network in Europe. I am required to complete an internship for credit and though I have completed multiple internships before, I am the most excited about this one because it is the most relevant to my current career aspirations. If I do exemplary work this might lead to a job offer later or at least a strong connection in European politics. For me part of growing professionally will also mean becoming conversant or fluent in French. Being able to speak another language will open many doors for me in the future. French is commonly called the language of diplomacy and is a great skill to possess if I want to go into international politics.
A possible pitfall of my Belgian study abroad experience could be expecting it to be similar to my German experience. The cultures of these two countries will be different and I will also be studying at a university instead of a private study center. The key to overcoming this will be to stay humble, I do not know everything but by keeping an open mind I can gain a deeper understanding of Belgian culture.