Chelsea studied abroad through CEA Global Education in Sevilla, Spain. She is currently finishing her degree in Journalism and Electronic Media at the University of Tennessee.
Where do you go to school?
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
When and where did you study abroad?
Spring 2013 – Sevilla, Spain (Universidad Pablo de Olavide – CEA: Cultural Experiences Abroad)
What was the BEST part about studying abroad?
I love people. My interaction with every new person was unique, enriching, and inspiring in its own way. Every day, I encountered someone new who had a story to tell, an experience to share, or at least a cheek to kiss. Finding out where people were from, where they’ve been physically and emotionally, and how they’ve gotten where they are now is just extremely exciting and motivational. We all have different backgrounds, different journeys, and different goals that shape us and the people we meet. These people taught me about their cultures, their countries, and their dreams, and they encouraged me to create a life for myself that I’ve always envisioned.
What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
The learning goes so beyond any classroom experience you can imagine; I learned about ways of life that I didn’t know existed, and I found how to not only respect but also appreciate these unfamiliar lifestyles and cultures and interests. Ultimately, I learned how to be my best self by giving to and investing in others whenever I had the chance, and I learned that there’s no greater joy than making someone else truly happy. It taught me how the world will treat us well when we focus on contributing to and loving and promoting the good. I discovered how to be good and be well.
What was your BIGGEST challenge while studying abroad and how did you manage to handle it?
My greatest challenge was breaking out of my shell and taking down the walls I’ve built for years. I’m very introverted/introspective, and it always took me a lot of time to make honest connections with others. I knew this would be my biggest struggle entering the semester, so I focused on it for the first couple of weeks and started investing in the people around me with no reservations. My inhibitions slowly but surely dissipated, and I grew into my own skin as I learned about and loved others. This is an extremely valuable part of studying abroad because although you enter your time there with a mindset of a temporary stay, we must treat it as a naturally long-term relationship with ourselves and the people around us because without those relationships, we have no real excitement or motivation or happiness. Good people make for a great life, and that pair can be found anywhere in the world.
How did studying abroad change your life?
The ways in which I gained and grew are innumerable, but they’re all skills and developments that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. Studying abroad taught me to open my eyes, ears, and heart to things I didn’t know existed, and I now see, hear, and feel the world in an entirely new way. My outlook on life has shifted along with my priorities and goals for the future. The way I spend my time has become extremely vital, and this means my days are spent connecting with others and devoting time to the activities I care about and love. It fanned the flame that is my passion for life, and this outward passion has already proven to help me in my future career by being an enthusiastic writer and interviewee, and it’s left a lasting impression in any situation.
What are your future plans?
After graduation, I have many different goals and ideas (since all dreams can become a reality!). The immediate plan is to go abroad again to teach English and/or work for a study abroad organization as these are both areas for which I have an intense care. Since I’ve acquired connections internationally, it’s been much easier to find opportunities and plug into places and organizations that are interesting to me. I’ve been interning with a large company since my return from Sevilla, and I hope to continue my work with them in their International Department as they’re undergoing much growth in that scene, which is very exciting! Ultimately, though, I plan to continue my work in videography to make travel documentaries so I can continue to discover the world and share it with others in a new, exciting, and fresh way.
What’s your BEST piece of advice for someone who is thinking about studying abroad?
Love it. Love yourself, love others, love the places, love the food, and love your life. Open your mind and open your heart because you’ll experience things in a way that’s foreign to you but common to thousands of people around you. Delete the word “fear” from your brain and dive into the newness and greatness of all the fascinating things that are happening around you every single day. And most of all, give yourself to others and to the world. Be an instrument, let everything tune you, and in the end, you’ll make something really beautiful!