In January, rather than returning to Mansfield University for the spring semester, I hopped on a plane and landed in Finland.
This was the start of my study abroad experience and it would last until I returned to the United States in June.
I experienced things in this frozen country that I had never believed I would. I saw five straight nights of the Northern Lights and met the real Santa and his reindeer while in Lapland (the area of Finland above the Arctic Circle).
Meredith Shewell, a student at Mansfield University, is shown in Stockholm, Sweden, during her semester abroad overseas. Shewell said she decided to change her major while she was overseas.
I was on top of the world in Norway and swam in the Arctic Ocean. I went to countries that I never thought I would see, and now I have a place to sleep in almost all of Europe when I return.
I learned an incredible amount of things in Finland. I learned languages and new cultural norms, but most importantly, I learned to be proud of where I come from.
I learned that I am proud to say that I am American.
As scary as leaving home to go more than 4,000 miles away to a country I knew nothing about was, the thought of returning to Mansfield this fall semester was strange.
I decided to change my major while I was away from biology to public relations and the idea of returning to a department where I didn't know anyone was scary.
I arrived home to the States in June and had a normal summer, working and getting myself set for the following school year. I moved back to campus in early August for resident assistant training and easily fell back into my groove of being an American student.
I felt the new outlook on life that spending a semester away had given me and I felt myself being happier already.
Classes would start in two weeks and, as they approached, I got more and more nervous for them to begin. A previous acquaintance asked me to attend the first meeting for the Communications Department of year and I met a few of the professors I didn't have in class.
The following week we attended a barbecue at a professor's house and the professors were all there. More shocking to me was that many recognized me.
I am enjoying all of my classes and the students in the department have welcomed me with open arms into their world in Mansfield.
I feel more at home here than I have in the past three years.
Going overseas and experiencing the things I did made my life rich with culture, but coming home and being surrounded with fun and joy has made my life rich with happiness.
Shewell, a resident assistant at Mansfield University, is a student in Dan Mason's journalism class.