Meet Marisa of The Traveling Storygirl, and learn how this brave young girl overcame all the naysayers with her boyfriend from home, and her thoughts about travelling solo for the first time in her life!
1. What’s your name, age, occupation and country you are from?
My name is Marisa Martin and I am 19 years old. Currently I am a journalism student and am going to law school after completing my undergraduate studies. I am from the United States of America and have lived there my whole life, aside from traveling the world.
2. Why did you decide to study overseas?
I attend Pepperdine University in Malibu and my school is very well known for its study abroad programs. The abroad classes are taught by Pepperdine faculty and we live in a Pepperdine facility with Pepperdine students. So I knew that all of my classes would transfer and I did not have to worry about courses transferring, which was a great deciding factor. I have always wanted to live in Europe since I was a little girl, so I knew that this would be my one opportunity to live abroad and see if it was for me.
3. In which country did you study and how long?
I am studying in Heidelberg, Germany, for one year.
4. Share a favourite photo taken while you were studying abroad!
This picture is of me and my best friend at Oktoberfest this past year. It was such a fun festival and we spent time with other people from out program and made lifelong friendships.
5. Describe an unforgettable/scary experience you encountered.
Before I left the U.S. to study abroad, my mom made me promise her that I wouldn’t travel alone. Fast forward seven months, and I decided to take a day trip to Liechtenstein on my own – without telling her. I left early in the morning and was supposed to arrive home in Heidelberg around 9:00 that evening. The train network had other plans.
What should have been a five hour return trip turned into an all-night ordeal. An accident had occurred somewhere on a major railway in Germany which essentially stopped all long-distance trains. I was still a three-hour train ride away from home and there were no trains leaving the area. Announcements were only being made in German and I could understand just enough what substitute train I needed to board.
Unfortunately, that train sat in the station for over four hours with hundreds of people panicking about getting home. The scariest part was I was still in Switzerland at the border! After many stressful hours, the train finally left and I had to wait for new connections, considering the trains I needed to be on had already left. I miraculously made it home at 3:00 in the morning and admitted to my mom that I had made the trip alone and barely managed to make it home. Needless to say, I haven’t traveled alone since!
6. Did you witness something that touched you?
During a trip to Munich for Oktoberfest, my friends and I stayed in Salzburg, Austria. This was at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis and getting back and forth across the borders was a difficult process. Since we were Americans, the border patrol did not have a problem with us travelling. We were treated very nicely which was in stark contrast with the refugees waiting in the cold to cross the border. There is nothing in the world that can prepare you for being thrown into that kind of situation. We were forced to watch helplessly as these refugees waited patiently to be allowed into Germany. In comparison, we just walked across the border as though we were royalty compared to them.
The refugee crisis is something that I have to deal with nearly every time that I travel and it gives me a broader understanding of the world. For my friends at home in the U.S.A., they only know about the refugees from what they hear on television. They aren’t out there experiencing it on a daily basis.
After seeing the refugees firsthand, I can’t remove myself from the situation like I could if I stayed home in the U.S. The world is so much larger than we can ever imagine and I want to see it all. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
7. How did you overcome a challenge that you faced while you were overseas?
I had been dating my boyfriend for almost a year when I left to study in Germany. Everybody I spoke to advised me that I should break up with him to allow myself maximum opportunities while abroad. I refused to listen to them. I wasn’t going to allow 7,000 miles and 9 hours of time difference break up a wonderful relationship.
And do you know what? We didn’t. Six months into living abroad, he and I are still going strong. In fact, he’s coming to visit me in two weeks for my birthday. If I had listened to all of those nay-sayers, I would have deprived myself of all that happiness. I’ll be the first to admit it – a long distance relationship is very difficult. There are many sleepless nights and lots of occasions where you miss that person more than you ever thought imaginable. But it’s important to remember why you are with that person and how they are supportive of your dream to live abroad.
Don’t let other people try to dictate how you live your life. Just get out there and live!
8. What’s your favourite travel website, whether it be for travel planning or travel inspiration?
If I had to choose one travel inspiration blog, I would have to choose An Innocent Abroad. She lives such a fabulous life and makes me want to travel to the far corners of the earth. Did I mention that her style is impeccable?
9. If you had 2 tips you could share from your study abroad experience to students feeling apprehensive about taking this leap, what would they be?
Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Try to speak the language even though you want to resort to your native tongue. Go ahead and get lost in your own city to discover it more. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, so go ahead and find it.
Moving to another country can be stressful and there is usually the pressure to see everything and do everything while abroad. The truth is that it’s impossible to do it all. See as much as you can, but don’t forget to save some sights for the future!
To find out more about her adventures, you can connect her on Instagram.
Student Travel Series seek to showcase travel stories from students, for students. The aim of this series is to inspire more youths and students to take the leap and discover a world outside of your own!
What do you feel about Marisa’s story? Let us know below!