How can studying abroad shape you as a personality?
A contemporary science communicator, astrophysist and director of the Hyden Planetarium in New York City, Neil deGrasse Tyson was asked once, “In what percentage of cases does the unintended, unplanned and unforeseen benefit of scientific inquiry outweigh the initial planned one?” His response was short as it was mind-blowing, “In 100% of cases”. Sr. Isaac Newton’s greatest work, Principia Mathematica, deals with the problem of gravitational theory and, to put it simplistically, why planets can rotate around their orbits without colliding into each other. Newton had to invent a completely new method of mathematical analysis to study the gravitational forces. He did not think much of it at the time, but shortly this invention, known today as Calculus, became one of the greatest inventions in mathematics and all of science, without which almost no other form of great scientific analysis is possible. And so it goes with every scientific discovery.
I find this concept mind-blowing. It does not leave my mind as I ponder the question of how studying abroad would shape my personality. Naturally, I have very strong reasons for wanting to study abroad. I have been thinking of it non-stop for quite some time, imagining all the new people I would meet, new languages I would learn, new knowledge I would gain and how I would grow as a result. Of course, I absolutely love and adore my country and the people around me. At the same time, I also yearn to grow abroad and forge my own path. Some traditional aspects of my home country (Kazakhstan) can be a bit suffocating. Having said this, the more I think of all of this, the more I look back and think of my short life and the trajectory of my experiences and learnings, the more I wonder if I simply have no idea how the experience abroad would shape my personality in the end. One of my earliest vivid childhood memories somewhat supports this point.
The first toy I consciously remember receiving as a gift was a Lego set. I was five years old. It took me many hours to put it together. I do remember though that I was glued to it. The process of playing around with different pieces and putting up different structures fascinated me. I do not recall being interested in other kid toys afterwards. It was all about Lego. While this little story might not be different from other children’s, Lego created a new world for me. Thanks to Lego, I got interested in Robotics. Although the transition was clear — Lego led to Robotics — they were very different from each other. Robotics requires much more focus, patience, preparation, and basics of programming. Robotics became the next big thing for me, my next big passion. But then, through Robotics I got to Computer Programming, which requires even more patience and focus. Programming is my biggest current interest. This is what I want to study in University.
As such, my childhood fascination with Lego led to my current interest in Computer Programming. Would I still be interested in programming without lego? Would I have developed the same level of patience, ability to sit long hours focused at a given problem without getting distracted? I do not know. Maybe yes, maybe no. I know one thigh for sure though — I sure enjoyed the journey.
In the end, this question, “How can studying abroad shape you as a personality?” still evades me a bit. There is a million questions in my head. Would the study of the Czech language spark an interest in the history of Central Europe? Who will be roommate? Will it be someone from Spain and I will get interested in Spanish language or perhaps Spanish music? Will I get interested in a completely different field of study and combine it with Computer Programming to pursue some alternative fields of interest? Obviously, I cannot know for sure, but the unknown excites me and makes the butterflies in my stomach fly wildly.