How I Went from Small Town Living to Studying Abroad

My hometown definitely isn’t the biggest place you’ll ever visit.

Boasting a population of 14,000 and three full-service McDonalds (the true measure of a city’s size, am I right?), Hendersonville is nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.

I spent most of my childhood in one of three places — the swing set in my backyard, the church, or the school (on top of normal hours because I’m a teacher’s kid). Our summer trips to Myrtle Beach or Dollywood in Tennessee were my definition of traveling.

Don’t get me wrong, Hendersonville has been a great place to grow up, and I’m thankful for the opportunities it’s brought me. However, I’ve always longed to see more.

So how did I get to the point I am today — a week and a half away from studying abroad?

It all started back in sixth grade

What was so special about the year everyone got braces and discovered Hollister?

Well, in sixth grade I went on my first mission trip to a suburb of Atlanta called Clarkston. Designated as a refugee relocation area by the federal government, Clarkston is home to refugees of around different 40 nationalities.

Middle school Nathanael talks with a refugee child at a coat drive in Clarkston.

Now, fast forward a year

With two more trips to Clarkston under my belt, I knew I was ready for something bigger. When the librarian announced that she was taking a group to Australia over the summer, I jumped at the opportunity (shout out to my family for being incredible and helping raise the money).

I remember the sheer terror and excitement of my first plane ride, and I also remember how completely in love with traveling I was after three weeks down under and about 10 more flights.

Please ignore the fedora and focus on the fact that wallabies are amazing.

My days cuddling koalas and throwing boomerangs taught me how invaluable travel is to personal development, and that I should definitely do laundry more than once in three weeks.

My passion only grew from there

In high school, I started taking classes like Spanish and Human Geography, which helped cement my desires to see more of the world.

Through my Spanish teacher, I discovered the incredible organization Honduras Fountain of Life (find out about them here). Through HFOL, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Honduras three times on mission work.

From Honduras I’ve learned that traveling is more than just a vacation. People around the world are living in utter poverty and it is our responsibility as those more fortunate to learn about their situation and fight to improve it.

A brief moment of tranquility after working on the shores of Lake Yojoa, Honduras

Coming face-to-face with the reality that I am rich (in comparison to most of the world) just because I can afford to step foot on a plane was a reminder to be a humble traveler — someone who doesn’t let the concept of traveling outweigh the privilege of experiencing life in a different place. 

So am I to the point yet?

By now, you probably have a general understanding of why I chose to study abroad (but I’m still going to spell it out for you).

To me, traveling offers the opportunity to gain unique experiences, and in turn to mold a stronger identity. Encountering foreign ideas, history, and culture gives a broader basis for both interpersonal understanding and self-evaluation. 

Put simply, I chose to study abroad because it will give me a new and engaging way to glimpse the real lives of diverse people, and translate that knowledge into my own life.

Liked what you just read and want to hear more about my time abroad? Check out the sidebar for other recent posts or to subscribe to my blog! As always, feel free to comment or reach out to me as well. 

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