As I reflect on my study abroad experience in Edinburgh, I am filled with gratitude. I truly grew in ways I could not have foreseen. There is something about living in a foreign country that allows a beautiful transformation to take place. Getting out of my comfort zone was the best thing for me. Through living in a foreign city, taking classes at a new university, and my internship, I grew in independence and confidence.
I grew in my independence tremendously during the three and a half months living in the city of Edinburgh. I loved walking all around the city, as well as taking public transportation. I felt like an adult in the “real world.” I was responsible for buying my own groceries, cooking meals, cleaning the bathroom, doing my laundry, and all the other duties that come with living in an apartment. I joined a gym as well as a yoga studio, which soon became one of my favorite places in Edinburgh. I am now much more confident that I am prepared to take on life after graduation. I was also alone much more than I was at my home university. My commute to class was about 45 minutes, and my commute to my internship was about 25 minutes. My typical days consisted of a lot of time in which I was forced to be alone. I realized that I was constantly with people at my home university. This was refreshing to take time for myself and listen to music or a podcast. I began to savor these moments alone. I learned that I need some time alone for my mental health.
I also gained confidence through my study abroad experience. Through being the only American in a class of about 100 students, I was pushed out of my comfort zone. I reached out to people in order to make friends. I met many people with different backgrounds and opinions. Learning at a larger university challenged me to adapt to new teaching styles. I also gained confidence through travelling.
I was able to travel to seven different countries during my time abroad. Travelling has a way of showing people’s true colors. I learned a lot about myself. For example, I am very easygoing and tend to not be a planner. One of my friends that travelled with me learned that she is definitely a planner. Travelling also showed me that I am optimistic. We almost missed our flights a couple of times, but I was the one reassuring everyone that it would work out.
I am planning on becoming a physical therapist, so I was thrilled when I found out I would be interning at a place I could shadow physical therapists. Through my internship, I gained valuable knowledge about treating a patient holistically. Therapy should be person-specific. All of the clients I observed were unique. I was particularly amazed at the variety of ability amongst the multiple sclerosis clients. Some were in wheelchairs, and some could walk with no evident sign of a disease. Some could barely talk, some stuttered, and some could talk with ease. Some were sad about their struggles, and some were optimistic. Each client had a different background and different daily struggles. I was impressed with the way the physiotherapists treated each one as a unique individual. I will carry this mindset into my future career as a physical therapist. This experience gave me confidence in my decision to pursue physical therapy.
My internship at the Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre was an incredible experience that definitely shaped my sense of purpose. I am thankful that I was placed in such a welcoming environment. I am thankful for all of the incredible people I met. I am thankful I was able to shadow physical therapists who truly care about their clients and encourage them to reach their full potential. I am thankful I was able to form relationships with clients who amaze me with their positive outlook on life despite their circumstances. MSTC is such a special place, and I never would have been able to intern there if it weren’t for EPA. I remember the day I found out I had been accepted into the EPA program. Little did I know the positive impact it would have on me. I would recommend studying abroad through EPA to anyone wanting to get out of their comfort zone. I am very thankful that I was able to study abroad in Edinburgh and will never forget this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Charlotte Gilbert, Furman University (Edinburgh, Fall 2018)