Indiana University Overseas Study

JoanO

People always say that going abroad will change your life. You’ll grow as a person and learn so much about yourself, they say. Whatever that means, it was not the reason I wanted to go abroad. I was looking forward to getting away from my slow hometown summer life and having a great time in London. I’m a senior in college and felt pretty mature upon my arrival in London. But I have to admit that I’ve learned so much about myself, being part of a team and the beauty of taking the backseat during my time abroad, and for that I’m forever grateful.

We get taught in school that life is all about teamwork. Teachers try to show us this through team projects and papers aimed at showing us how to delegate tasks and work towards a common goal. They never work. Those projects are not real life. Being stranded in the Netherlands with only what you can fit in your backpack and having to rely on each other to figure out how to get to your hostel that’s 4 miles away is real life.

Last weekend, I traveled to Amsterdam with a group of 13 other abroaders to see the famous Red Light District, take pictures on the I Amsterdam sign, and tour the Heineken Brewery. Everyone who goes abroad ventures to Amsterdam at some point, so it had to be easy, right? Wrong. We arrived at the train station at 4am, had a flight from an airport an hour away at 6:30am, and then had to take a shuttle bus for two hours to arrive in Amsterdam. So nearly seven hours later we made it to Amsterdam. Such a relief. Except that’s when things started to get hectic.

We got dropped off in the city center of Amsterdam, right by the train station and the world-famous canals. It was truly picturesque – until we realized we had no idea how to get anywhere, nobody in our group understands Dutch, our cell phones didn’t work, nobody accepts British pounds in the Netherlands, and our hostel was 4 miles away from the city center – an hour and a half walk. Time for the fighting and stress to begin.

To my surprise, not one person freaked out. Everyone remained calm and worked together, bouncing ideas off of each other and we found a map, a monetary exchange stand, a canal bus, a tram that went straight to our hostel and the location of all the sights we wanted to see. We all stayed together since we had no means of communication and everyone understood they would have to sacrifice seeing everything they wanted to in order to have a safe trip, no complaining. It was the most relaxed weekend trip I’ve ever had, we got so much done and saw so many sights, and our friendships became stronger for it.

Life is truly all about teamwork and I’d never had an experience that proved this to me until coming abroad. Sure, school projects teach you how to work together to achieve a common goal, but there’s really nothing like relying on team members (or friends) when the common goal is eating or finding a place to sleep. That’s when you really learn about teamwork and that’s what they can’t teach in school.

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