Indiana University Overseas Study

JoanO

The three things I’ve learned (if I’ve only learned three things this whole time) for success in life are to always keep an open mind, clear eyes and an open heart. These three things have led me to fall in love with a new city, new people and an experience I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have.

Keeping an open mind is much more difficult than it sounds, particularly when going to a foreign country for an extended period of time. Our natural human reaction is to shut down in discomfort and to flock to the things we know. With a reaction like this, it’s almost like our bodies and minds don’t want expanded horizons. The weight lifting coach from my high school always taught us to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Well, that’s what an open mind does. After you fight through your natural reaction of shutting down in discomfort, you become comfortable in a place you never thought you would. This is how I’ve come to be able to call London my home.

Keeping clear eyes means allowing your cultural barriers and lenses to fall. Stop seeing the world through American eyes. Allow yourself to take a step back and observe the people around you. What are they doing? What are they wearing? How do they see you? See the world through someone else’s eyes and your view of the world will change. We’ve been taught one way our entire lives, but there are thousands if not millions of ways to do things, learn things, teach things, and see things. Clear your eyes and your biases and start experiencing the world for what it really is—exceptionally dynamic and full of exciting things.

Keeping an open heart may sound like it’s irrelevant to success in life, but in my opinion it’s the most relevant. You can keep your mind open and your eyes clear, you can have new experiences and learn everything there is to know, but if you don’t allow yourself to feel new things and create emotional attachments to new places, people and ways of life, you’ve failed. Falling in love isn’t just for human relationships, it’s for anything or any place you’ve experienced something life-changing. I believe you can fall in love with a place and I think all my friends would agree we’ve fallen in love with London. It’s brought together a group of strangers to become family and it’s changed our view of the world forever.

You can do all the research you’d like, read all the books you’d like and talk to all the people you’d like—but the only way to truly experience a new city is to enter it with an open mind, clear eyes and an open heart. That is, as long as you’re brave enough to have your life changed forever.

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