One year ago I had about a month and a half left in the country I studied abroad in: Estonia. This was a bitter-sweet time for me. I had just finished my final exams at the university there and was getting ready to travel the countryside of Estonia in rented cars with my friends. I was aware of my dwindling time in the country yet also deeply nostalgic for the United States and missing my friends and family terribly. Having taken a year since that back in the United States I think it is important that I take stock of what that experience meant to and for me and how it has impacted me.
One of the biggest impacts it has had on my life is that I am much more aware of and empathetic to those who are in some way outsiders. Having spent time in a place in which my understanding of the language and culture was so low that I was embarrassed every time I opened my mouth, as well as somewhere where I had a limited amount of money, no way to earn more, and no life lines should I be in danger, I learned a lot about how vulnerable geographic location can make you. Of course, I am not comparing this to the experiences of refugees or those who were forced to immigrate. I am simply saying that I understand those who are trying to make their way in strange circumstances much better and I try to be empathetic to them.