Study abroad reflections – Following your instincts abroad

By: Karen W., Transcript and Visa Processing Coordinator, API Texas

Karen on castle in Wales

I hate horses. I know I hate horses. So why on Earth am I saddled up on a horse in the Welsh countryside? Let’s back up…

On a family vacation in Colorado some years back, my dad and I decided to go horseback riding with a tour group in the mountains. What began as a lovely outing turned into a terrifying experience. We were half way up the mountain on a switchback portion of the trail when a horse that had gotten loose from the stables ran past. Several of the riders lost control of their horses and they took off running after the free horse. The guide asked the remaining riders to stay where we were on the trail while he tried to stop the horses.

As the minutes ticked by, the horses grew anxious, and were becoming hard to control. That’s when it happened – the mother of the family in front of us lost control of her horse, and it stepped off the trail. I watched in horror as the horse and rider slid down the rocky mountainside before disappearing from view. My dad’s horse, apparently also wanting to get away from the situation, began to walk up the steep incline of the mountain. The soil gave way and they fell. Just when I thought the horse would roll over my dad, it corrected itself and stood up. As I sat upon my horse shaking from disbelief and fright, I thought to myself, “I’m never getting on a horse again – ever!”

So how did I end up on a horse in Wales?


Horseback riding - butting heads

Several of the girls studying abroad in Wales with me decided they wanted to go horseback riding. Instead of voicing my concerns, I remained quiet and thought, “I really don’t want to go horseback riding, but I love hanging out with my new found friends. I’ll just have to hunker down and get through this.” Without realizing it, I was ignoring my instincts which were really screaming, “What are you doing?! You swore you would never do this again!”

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the moment when studying abroad – to do things you wouldn’t normally do. In fact, you probably aren’t having a true studying abroad experience if you aren’t doing anything that you wouldn’t normally do, but it’s important to acknowledge your feelings during these new experiences – especially if they are telling you something doesn’t feel safe.

The Saturday I went horseback riding, I can think of nearly a million things that I would have been happier doing in and around Bangor like visiting Garth Pier, hiking Mount Snowdon, or visiting one of the 400+ castles that are located in Wales (to name a few). So not only did I spend a Saturday doing something I really didn’t want to do, but I missed out on the opportunity to try something new and enriching.

Garth Pier

So how did my horseback riding experience in Wales go, you ask? Well, about as good as you can imagine a terrified person sitting upon an uncontrollable beast would be. He took off running every chance he got, and I hung on for dear life. It took this experience for me to realize that it’s important to use the same reasoning abroad that you would use at home – follow your instincts, and keep your safety a priority!

Horseback riding in Wales

In addition to assisting students prior to departure and upon their return home in her official capacity at API, Karen studied abroad 3 times during her undergraduate time at Central College in Leiden, the Netherlands (spring 2006), Bangor, Wales (summer 2007), and Paris, France (fall 2007).

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  1. Great words advice!! Kudos for jumping back into the saddle as well (yes, that pun was intended 😉

    • Thanks Tiffany! I started reading What Would Jane Do after you posted on our blog in December. I really liked one of your guest posts on DIWYY. It’s the one about, “When the Art of Travel Planning Becomes the Mistake of Over-planning” – I can totally relate! In fact I even took a flight out of the Beauvais airport to Italy during my semester in Paris. Beauvais looks like a gorgeous city. Makes me wish I had arrived a day early by mistake too 😉

  2. Great post! I think it’s interesting to see what you will learn (outside of the classroom) when you study abroad. For that reason, I am looking forward to my semester on the other side of the world.

    • I completely agree! Once abroad, I realized that spending time in another culture / country was the best way to begin to understand my own. Best of luck with your semester abroad!!

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