How Studying Abroad Made Me Appreciate My Upbringing

I would not have been able to live the life I have without building it on the sacrifices of my parents. I always thought that I was appreciative towards my parents for all that they have done for my brother and me, however, it was not until I moved to Croatia that I realized how truly grateful I am for them. When beginning to live away from home in a completely different country did I then really begin to realize how exchange would not have been possible without the support of my parents, brother, and his girlfriend.

My parent’s humble beginnings in Canada have always reminded me how quickly life can take a turn. How even when things are going great, things out of your control, can cause a tornado and leave you with just the aftermath of the storm. How when my parents decided to move to Canada for a better life for themselves and their family, how this very sacrifice has shaped the person I have become and continue to aim to be. My parents are people who never give up, and I can openly say they are the most forward-thinking people I know. Their optimistic attitudes, work ethic and ability to show compassion and love, is what I hope I take from them because it is those things that I believe worked together to get them to the life they live in Canada. They have been able to push past obstacles and have shown my brother and me how to do the same in our own lives.

Studying abroad has allowed me to be that much more grateful for my parents, my brother, and his girlfriend, in their ability to show unconditional love towards family, and teach me to show love to others. To see that beyond the hardships of their lives, my parents have been able to love and spread love to create many happy moments. Their effort to create a childhood of travel for my brother and I is what I believe sparked the travel gene within us. Where my first flight to Europe at the age of two was enough to show me that traveling the world is possible with effort and hard work. Throughout the years, we would travel back to Bosnia and Croatia to visit family, and even go to Germany to spend time with more loved ones. This showed me even then that traveling is not this impossible task, much rather, it is just another thing in life that if you want to have you must work hard to achieve.

Every summer, my parents always tried to plan some sort of adventure and with that they were teaching me the beauty of hard work. Until moving to Europe, I had not realized the impact of this mentality and how it would come to shape my experience studying abroad. Where leading up to exchange, I had allocated a lot of my time inside and outside of school working a go-go schedule.

However, it was through exchange that I was able to focus on academia and the beautiful experiences studying abroad has to offer. Where I have been able to see in my own life the beauty of hard work, and feel that much more open to taking on new experiences knowing I had put the time and effort to get to this point. However, this is all once again tied back to my family. Whereas I live my life in Croatia, my parents continue to work hard in Canada to make sure they can come travel with me later this summer, my brother continues to do the same to build up for his next adventure, and even to add my brother’s girlfriend finalizes school to take on her next journey. All of which people, have shown me and continue to show me what an optimistic and persistent work ethic can lead to, and the doors that actually open from these two values in action.

As much as this may be an article to thank my family and a reflection on how they have shaped my exchange experience. How their ability to show me how to love and carry certain values have seeped into the conversations I have had with new friends, adventures I have taken, and effort I have put to juggle school and experiencing the joys of studying abroad. It is while on exchange that I continue to remind myself to seek out those individuals in life that radiate optimism, a dedicated work ethic and genuine compassion. That maybe beyond the point of me having my family to show me these values, that it also becomes a point to ensure I build relationships with those that see the value in these things as I do. That through studying abroad, I have first become ever thankful for these values because of my family, but that through these values I have been able to build positive relationships, and learned to weed out the unhealthy ones.

Values may not be something that everyone has the opportunity to learn from their families but, I do believe that it is something that can be learned from others. Regardless of their story, whether it be similar or completely different from my parents or my family, one can learn from the wisdom of others and their own stories.

To that very point, maybe that is the way exchange has allowed me to learn the most about who I am and want to be, through the people I have met. The values I have been opened up to and formed connections with, and ultimately, the stories I have listened to that I would not have been able to hear otherwise than from choosing to study abroad in this very moment of my life.  

Featured Image via Labella

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