How Study Abroad Changed My Perspective

Studying abroad in Spain and Japan changed my life and put me on the trajectory that I am on today. It helped me start my journey in defining how I want to live my life instead of making my choices based on what others told me were safe.

These experiences truly helped me begin to work towards becoming the man that I want to be, not what the world tells me I should be, which has been a powerful and freeing discovery. I am still in the very early stages of my journey, but I know that I have started on a path that is mine and mine alone. I owe much of that shift to studying abroad.

The author stands in front of a view of a cathedral tower and the Spanish countryside
My study abroad trip to Spain set me on the career path I’m on now.

So, what was so life-changing about my experiences abroad?

Ultimately, studying abroad gave me a new perspective which motivated me to seek out the career I am currently pursuing: public service. I realized I was too much of a consumer and that I needed to shift my perspectives and mindset to a more abundant and creation-focused point of view. In fact, placing a greater emphasis on thinking in abundance and finding ways to create and add value have become the pillars of how I now live my life.

Anyone that knows me personally knows that I am a realist.  I was a business and economics major in undergrad and am currently pursuing a master’s in international economic policy, so my whole academic background is centered around the idea of scarcity. Yet, after studying abroad I cannot see any other way to live my life except in the mindset of abundance. And what I mean by abundance is the idea of “potential”.

Understanding and acknowledging the potential of something provides a unique viewpoint. Thinking in this perspective allows me to not only see things for what they are but also for what they can be. Thinking back now, it feels ironic that an economist by study is discussing the life-changing realization of thinking in abundance. But I digress.

I can draw a direct line from my experiences abroad to my present choices and future prospects.

I am currently on track to work in an international capacity. While studying in Japan, I learned about U.S. – Japanese relations, and in Spain with a Gilman Scholarship, I studied Spanish business culture. Both experiences increased my appetite for international relations and how business operations, particularly economics, tie into that. After returning from abroad with this new perspective, I started asking different questions. I no longer asked if — I instead asked how. I became more meticulous with my planning, yet more flexible in its execution. I started taking more risks, applying for more, and saying no more, because I realized that if I want something, why not go after it? The worst that could happen is I fail and end up in the same position I am in now.

I started pursuing more opportunities, which landed me in the Rangel Scholar Summer Enrichment Program. After that program, I landed the Pickering Graduate School Fellowship. Looking back, I see how every past choice since I went abroad has connected to the one before it.

This focus on abundance, value creation, and nurturing potential all helped me develop a sense of purpose. Ever since I studied abroad, I feel as though my actions have a purpose and that I am building a life I can be proud of.

Studying abroad changed my perspective, which has been integral to my development. For you, studying abroad might spark a new interest, help you discover a knack, or just give you a glimpse of the life you didn’t know you wanted, motivating you to push your development farther.


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Donald Williams Jr.
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Donald Williams Jr. is a Pickering Fellow and founder of The Life v Lifestyle brand. Through his website, blog, and podcast, Life v Lifestyle, he helps young people transition into adulthood and make the most of the opportunities coming their way.

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