Stepping into the Unknown: An Introduction

Meet Brie, our new Learn International intern as she shares about her passion for international education, stepping out of her comfort zone, and combatting her fears while pursuing a life full of self-discovery and bravery. Stay updated as she blogs weekly about her virtual internship and reflects about her study abroad experiences.
Brie Brullo

A little about me

Hi everyone! My name is Brie (like the cheese) Brullo and I am newly starting my virtual internship with Learn International! During my undergraduate studies at the University of Redlands in Southern California, I had the opportunity to study abroad three times: one time each in Madrid, London, and Salzburg. This is where my love and passion for travel and international education was truly born. After my educational experiences abroad, I was significantly impacted and felt called to become a more globalized and empathic citizen and to encounter and immerse myself into as many cultures as I could, thus sparking my interest and aspirations for working in international education and study abroad management. I’m very excited to have the opportunity to intern with Learn International for the next two months to learn and understand more about the inner-workings of an education abroad company and to develop various professional and personal skills as I work on my projects and tasks remotely from home. Thanks for tuning in and reading about my experience!

In today’s blog post, I wanted to tell you a little bit more about my background and context as to how study abroad changed my life and how I overcame immense fears while traveling and living abroad. I’ll also share how I implement the valuable lessons that my intercultural experience bestowed to me into my daily life and how my experiences abroad continue to impact me.

Taking leaps in life

Studying abroad was something I was interested in since I got to university, as nearly 70% of students from my college studied abroad during their academic career. After vacillating between multiple study abroad location options for months, I chose to embark on my experience in Madrid, Spain, where I immersed myself into Spanish culture and language through a Spanish intensive programme. Prior to going abroad, I was a very fearful person who was always incredibly stressed and anxious about the world around me, as fear of the unknown, fear of getting hurt, and fear of failure, were all lingering themes that held me back from experiencing more out of life and accomplishing new endeavors. Studying abroad instilled the importance of silencing those fears and insecurities that held me back in the past; my experiences abroad undermined my anxiousness, and in fact refuted them entirely.

During my semester in Spain, I was developing independence by living on my own in a foreign country, and was adapting and acclimating to a new lifestyle and culture I had never been exposed to. Although I was scared and anxious, I found that with time, I developed a new-found confidence in myself and no longer heard the whispers of my fears that once discouraged me to wander out of my comfort zone and actualize new experiences. As time progressed, I underwent situations and experiences that allowed me to become more brave and confident in myself and revert less to those fears and anxieties. I got lost in a nearby “barrio” and had to find my way home without a cell-phone, I communicated complex technological issues (in Spanish) in an unfamiliar and questionable area, and I navigated the metro, train, and bus systems all by myself at all times of the day. With each of those seemingly fearful or anxiety-inducing circumstances I faced, I gained the essential life-lessons of self-reliance, bravery, determination, and confidence, that I take with me to this day. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t scared to walk alone (during any time of the day), talk to strangers, speak in a foreign language, or fear for my safety and well-being. I saw the overwhelming goodness in people: I came to the assertion that there are so many kind and good people in the world, and that I didn’t always have to live my life feeling fearful and worried. I was finally at peace with my fears and got to combat them in real-time.

Choosing to be brave

After my semester abroad, I took many of the lessons and experiences that had been instilled in me, and began to implement them as I adjusted back to my “normal life” at home. I know many of us have heard the cliché phrase, “study abroad changes lives”, but in my eyes, it was no trope, it truly changed me for the better and gave me a fresh perspective on my life. Those nerve-wracking and difficult experiences have helped me to become a more fearless person and to halt those thoughts and feelings of overwhelming fear that arise. I never would have imagined that I’d turn into this person who lives to seek out her next adventure or adrenaline rush, someone who fears less about what could hurt me, and instead focuses on what may strengthen and empower me.

Studying abroad taught me the incredible value of embracing life for all it has to offer and to rely on myself to experience the things I desire, by taking on the world and experiencing life to its fullest. If I hadn’t myself pushed myself out of my comfort zone and embraced the confidence I had in my abilities and experience, I wouldn’t have had the courage to apply to this internship and learn so much about the field and about myself. I’m so happy that studying abroad has helped me realize my capabilities and has encouraged me to pursue a life-long journey of learning and self-discovery. In the present day with the novel Coronavirus surging, I choose to be brave and not let the overwhelming uncertainties and fears take a strong-hold of my life. Although no one is truly “fearless”, and it still something I have to consciously battle with, I strive to integrate those lessons I learned abroad by seeking out new opportunities for growth, even when they might be daunting or nerve-wracking. I continually challenge myself to take leaps outside of my comfort zone and not succumb to my fears, and instead take advantage of all that life has to offer, even if it may be scary. I want to travel the world and experience as many cultures and places as I can; living a life full of hope, bravery, and courage are all important values I endeavor to embody throughout my journey.

Final reflection

Three years after-the-fact, I’ve been to 9 different countries, and my desire for stepping out into the unknown has continued to grow and become a consistent mantra throughout my life. Because of my experiences abroad , I don’t linger onto the “what ifs” and fear less about being hurt or failing; I feel brave and empowered to take on life’s next adventure.

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