Looking back on four weeks in Finland, I can confidently say that studying abroad was one of the best decisions of not only my college career, but my life. I explored places I never expected to see, I took classes that just aren’t offered anywhere else, I met new friends from both SDSU and around the world, and I had the time of my life. So, why were there so many tears the last week?
As I prepared for my big adventure abroad, I heard mostly of the amazing things I was about to experience, and very little of the tough challenges I would face. I never heard how difficult it would be to say goodbye to what was now home. I never heard how difficult it would be to step on a train without my new international friends and wonder if I will ever go hiking with them again. I never heard how quickly you could fall in love with everything you encounter only to be pulled away from it.
As you get closer to the day you leave for your grand adventure, you’ll regularly hear about culture shock and how to keep yourself safe and what to do if you become sick; are all immensely important. But, you won’t know about these really hard goodbyes or the pain in your heart as the train pulls away from the city that changed you for the better.
On Saturday, June 17, I came to know this pain and question how I was supposed to manage it. I hugged my friends one last time, realizing this was probably the last time I would get to do that, stepped on the train, and stared out the window as Jyväskylä, Finland flew past and into just a memory. It was the longest train ride of my life; I felt numb as I questioned how four weeks managed to flash by in what felt like four days. As the train continued to pass dozens of lakes and thousands of trees, I thought about the incredible adventures I had in Finland: Conquering my fear of heights over a high ropes course with people I met the night before, pushing past my social anxiety to meet so many great people, hours of card games, hikes up mountains and Olympic ski jumps and learning more about our world and how we can make it better.
How could I simply leave all that behind? I think about my friends around the world every day still and back on the laughs we shared and the pain of those goodbyes creeps back up. But I also would not give up those painful goodbyes for anything. If those goodbyes were easy, would I really have had half the fun or laughs or fear-conquering adventures as I got to experience? Probably not. So, as difficult as this is, I am so glad I have to deal with it.
Jyväskylä, Finland made me into a better person and showed me that I am capable of anything, if I just keep trying. Getting on a plane to an unknown country alone felt difficult, but I did it. Leaving Jyväskylä felt impossible, but I push on anyway and would not change this trip in any way. I look ahead to continuing my journey in Sweden and Denmark for another week and a half. Studying abroad is the greatest decision you can make — even when it is tough — and I look forward to continuing this journey despite those challenging moments.
Katelyn Throckmorton is a biology, pre-med sophomore. She is studying abroad in Jyväskylä, Finland in Summer, 2017.