Pushing past social anxiety in the aftermath of COVID through study abroad

Study abroad is not just for social outgoing types; it can be a great way to get yourself out of your comfort zone.

The Covid-19 pandemic took a lot from me. It took my grandma in 2021. It took three years of my college education experience. All online classes yet same tuition, from the very end of 2019 to 2022. I didn’t meet anyone on campus for four years. I’ve been attending the University of Washington Tacoma as a ghost, as most others have.  

I wanted the full college experience. I was living in the dorms on campus right before the pandemic. I had three roommates, things were looking good. When Covid hit the States they all decided to go back home. For the next three years I lived by myself. I haven’t met anyone since that time and it’s only gotten harder to socialize.  

I am a victim of self sabotage. I have severe social anxiety that makes it hard to meet new people. It was only exacerbated by the lockdown. I knew that since this was my last year of college this would be my last chance to get the full, or any, college experience.  

That’s what led me to apply for the study abroad program to South Korea. It would be like ripping the bandaid off.  

A night-time view of a street and building exterior from a busy sidewalk in Seoul, South Korea.
Walking the streets of Seoul at night. | Photo by Benjamin Fredell

I’m about a week into the trip right now, and so far it has been one of the most difficult experiences I’ve put myself through and I might be all the better for it. It’s hard but it’s important and it’s getting easier.  

Everyone has been trying much harder to get along because we’re stuck with each other for three weeks. It’s overwhelming and challenging, but I’m taking it slow.  

I decided to make some rules for myself to follow on this trip that you may take into your own life:  

  • I will always be honest, first to myself, then to those around me.  
  • Understand that I cannot change the things I have said in the past.  
  • Say yes when invited.  
  • I am but a grain of sand in the silo of life. There’s more out there than I could ever know. Always stay curious.  
  • Take things at your own pace. Find time to take a deep breath.  

I’m writing this article on the train to Busan. Expect an article next week about my thoughts on Korea and our class experiences here. It’s a beautiful and accommodating country that deserves its own article.  

Do I hold resentment toward the for-profit institution for the way they handled the pandemic? Yes. I am just trying to make the most out of what is available to me just like the rest of the students on campus.  

Study abroad is for every student, not just the out going and high energy personality types. Please, use all the resources available to you while they are available; who knows when it will all be taken away again.