In 2012, I studied abroad in Norwich, England for an academic year. I was an undergraduate student at San Francisco State University going into my senior year of studies but I knew I had to experience something before graduating. My academic journey was different than most, being that I first started college in 2001 in Los Angeles, California. After experiencing many setbacks and not having any direction, I dropped out of college to work a retail job at Home Depot to care for myself and pay rent. I continued on that path for a few years until I finally got serious once I moved out to the Bay Area. I decided to step on the edge of my goals and make my dreams of studying and living in another country become my reality.
Truth is, I had always thought about studying abroad since I was a little girl. I can remember walking on community college campuses and looking at different flyers posted across the grounds that talked about studying in another country for a semester or during the summer. I always thought that I would not be able to do something like this because of where I come from. Given the fact that I was born in South Central Los Angeles in a low-income house and not having the support of family, I didn’t understand what would happen later on in regards to having these opportunities. I always remembered those flyers on campus and knew that one day I would be somewhere living this dream. I didn’t know what country I wanted to go to, or how I would make it happen but I just knew that eventually, I would get there.
Ten years later, when I finally got serious about graduating with my associate’s degree then transferring to San Francisco State and graduating with my bachelor’s degree, these amazing opportunities were no longer a dream, but an option. It came with a lot of hard work and dedication but if I can give any advice it would be that the first step is putting yourself out there and applying. I remember walking the campus of San Francisco State University and going into the study abroad office to just get a feel for how I can include myself on what they were doing with the students there. I started going to open campus meetings to become more familiar. I would also talk to the director of the International Affairs office on campus and acquainted myself with him during his office hours. I was connected to individuals who studied abroad in other countries and have since returned to campus where they were able to share their experiences with us. With a leap of faith, I applied to study abroad in Ghana but was soon met with rejection. I wasn’t sure why I had been rejected but understood that I had a new obstacle placed in front of me. My professors advocated for me and wrote appeal letters to the board but were declined. This didn’t make me doubt myself but it made me fight even harder. My second option was England and fairly quickly they accepted me with open arms. Met with multiple scholarships including the Gilman international study abroad scholarship, I was soon preparing to live in another country for one academic year. There were many things I had to do to prepare myself, including applying for my Visa and Passport, as well as securing my housing, plane tickets, and packing.
No matter what you do in life, remember that hard work matters. If someone tells you to find another way to get to your destination. It is possible to study in another country regardless if you had some academic setbacks. The success of your goals will be determined by the effort you put behind them. It does not matter the age or circumstance because there is room for us all.