James currently attends the Catholic University of America and studied abroad through the London Parliamentary Internship Program and the CUA Oxford Program.
Where do you go to school?
The Catholic University of America
When and where did you study abroad?
Spring, 2011 – London Parliamentary Internship Program; Spring, 2012 – CUA Oxford Program
What was the BEST part about studying abroad?
The best part about studying abroad is travelling to different countries and absorbing as much culture as you can in a short amount of time. Between my internship in Parliament or my tutorials (classes) while I studied at Oxford, my time to travel was limited. So when I did get a chance to travel, I knew it we would short 3 or 4 day weekend trip and that I would have to make the most of it. These short trips really forced me to step outside my comfort zone.
What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
While studying abroad, I learned a lot (yet not nearly enough) about other parts of the world. My experiences were so different, even though I was predominantly in Europe, and more specifically England, for a majority of the time. Every country on this planet is different, and every city within every country has different people with different experiences waiting for you. I learned early on during my time abroad that I had to grab hold of those opportunities in front of me, and go and make the most of them. I’ve been to lots of museums, monuments, cafes, bars, and different places in many different countries, and not one of them was the same. They all had different opportunities and experiences waiting for me just as they will for future students…so go see as many as you can!
What was your BIGGEST challenge while studying abroad and how did you manage to handle it?
My biggest challenge while studying abroad was stepping outside my comfort zone. While it might be easy to say that I accomplished this by merely studying abroad in another country, that was the easy part for me. I always knew I was going to study abroad. The tough part was stepping out of my introverted ways and learning to talk to new people and take chances with new experiences, even if I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with them from the outset. I am the kind of person that once I get to know people, I can become a really great friend and feel really comfortable with sharing “me.” But this usually takes some time, and when I studied abroad, I was forced to put this into overdrive, especially since I didn’t study with any of my close friends.
How did studying abroad change your life?
What I discovered by doing my best to step outside my comfort zones was a different side of me, a side I didn’t even know existed. Sure I got home sick, missed my family and friends, and felt really uncomfortable at times around all those Brits, but I kept putting myself out there and gained a world of new experiences and memories that I will never forget. In addition to all those wonderful experiences and memories, I learned that stepping outside of your comfort zone actually challenges you to grow as a person. I think the best thing that a student can do while studying abroad is constantly step outside their comfort zone, work to find those new, fun experiences, and always remain open to growth and change. I know my experiences abroad have helped change me for the better.
What are your future plans?
I am graduating in just a few weeks and I’ve got the whole world in front of me for a possible career path. I plan on taking a a year or two off and working with an organization that I feel does good work, most likely a non-profit or a law firm. After this, a dream of mine would be to be a Fulbright Scholar and study more about the Arab Spring, perhaps even in a country like Tunisia that has so much potential and a bright future ahead of it. After this, law school is the next step and then who knows where I will go after that. That’s 6 or 7 years down the line, and my plans could change radically between now and then. All I can do between now and then is keep challenging myself to be better and try new things just as I did while I was abroad.
What’s your BEST piece of advice for someone who is thinking about studying abroad?
Make the most of your experience by stepping outside of your comfort zone and doing as much as you can with the little time you have. Time goes by too fast when studying abroad and there is A LOT to see and do, so don’t waste time. Plan ahead, and plan early and often. As soon as your time is up, you will want it back, so don’t let the time slip by without eking out every morsel opportunity you can!