How Devon Atchison '19 Took a Chance That Turned Into a Life-Changing Adventure
Studying abroad is scary. It's not for the fainthearted; it's not for people who want to take the easy way out. Studying abroad is for people who like to take life by the horns so it's perfect for Witt students.
I spent two months in Australia this past summer. I'm from a small town and have never spent time in a big city. I had left the country once for a week the summer before, but I had never left the continent. The 16-hour plane ride stared me straight in the face, and I stared it back.
That happened a few times over the summer semester. It happened when I stepped off the plane into a huge, yet beautiful city. It happened on the day I snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef. It happened when I didn't know how to get on the trains or get around anywhere in Sydney. It happened when I was in the middle of a national park in the outback and had no idea how to make the three-hour trip back to the city.
When something came up, when I didn’t know how to do it, there wasn't anyone to turn to. I couldn’t call my mom or my dad. I couldn’t look it up unless I had Wi-Fi. I was on my own. And I learned that it’s when you’re completely on your own that you truly find out who you are.
I found that I am strong. I can persevere. I can do anything I set my mind to. I can acclimate to my surroundings. I can adjust and learn a new way of life. I can appreciate my opportunities. I can find what I need to not only survive but thrive in a new environment. I found out so much about myself in those two months I spent abroad -- things that make me strong, as well as just the sheer victory that I had succeeded.
The “wholeness of person” that Wittenberg promotes is experienced through study abroad. Learning about economics in my classes and the importance of environmental protection was paired with the experience of independence and uncertainty. The education was obviously important, getting the credits for my major and increasing my knowledge base. But it was the experience of being on my own and having nowhere to go and not knowing what came next that truly made this experience worth it. And it was worth it. Every second of uncertainty and of the unknown, of trial and error, everything was entirely and utterly worth it.
I now have a love for Australia and everything it has to offer. The koalas and kangaroos and huge spiders (larger than my hand) and Sydney and the opera house. But Australia means so much more to me than the places and animals and cities. Australia represents a curiosity. A curiosity of the world and its people and other places.
This curiosity has been ignited in me and has since created a need and a desire to learn more about those around me, to go to the Grand Canyon, to visit Los Angeles, to see what New Mexico has to offer, to walk the tip of Florida, to sail in the Gulf. Not only do I have an increased curiosity of the United States, but I want to go to Switzerland and ski. I want to walk the Great Wall. I want to see Mexico and the way of life there. I want to learn about French and German cultural differences. I want to hear Italian spoken at a street mart in Italy.
This curiosity that I now have will direct my life. It will direct my interactions with others and my career path. It will also direct my willingness to take chances. For this, I am incredibly grateful and excited. Once your bubble is popped, once you see all there is in the world, you cannot be stopped. Wittenberg is such a perfect place to cultivate these curiosities and cultivate an increased willingness to learn and an openness to new experiences.
Studying abroad is scary, but I have learned so much about myself through the experience that I am okay with scary; in fact I prefer scary. If I'm not scared, if I know what's coming next, if I know how to get back to my comfort zone, then I'm not living right.
- Devon Atchison '19
For more information on Wittenberg’s Study Abroad program go to https://www.wittenberg.edu/administration/inted