#StudyAbroadBecause it expands you


My name is Emily Johnson and I've been living abroad for the past ten years. I started my journey in Poland where I studied for my M.A. in Eastern and Central European Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Being passionate about culture and the study of societies, after the completion of my degree I moved south, to Istanbul, Turkey, where I still reside and teach at university. My life is filled with oddities and resounding challenges, but I am also blessed with great beauty and uplifting joy.

#StudyAbroadBecause it expands you!


What motivated your decision to go abroad? How/why did you choose where to go?

I wanted something different and to be thrown totally out of my comfort zone. There was just a voice inside that said, "Go, explore, find yourself." I chose Poland because it simply felt like the right place to go. I had always been fascinated by the history of the region and my best friend growing up was first-generation Polish. I also believed as if it were a place I could explore my Bohemian roots, as this was the long lost part of my ancestry I felt most connected to.

I first went to work as an English teacher at a university in the southern Polish town of Nowy Sącz. I wanted to stay in Poland and had absolutely fallen in love with Krakow, so the next year I went and studied at the Jagiellonian University for my master’s degree.

#StudyAbroadBecause it expands you!


What was your experience like? What is your favorite memory? What were some challenges you observed?

It was the best time of my life! I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I made some truly amazing friends and learned more about myself then I thought possible.

I have a million irreplaceable memories, making it way too hard to pick a favorite. I suppose a beautiful memory I will always cherish is just simply gallivanting through the snow-covered parks around the old city center of Krakow (called the Planty) and laughing hysterically with new-found soul mates. I loved being a part of one of the oldest and best preserved medieval cities of Europe. It is such a magical place and the time there was pure happiness.

A challenge I observed would be the remnants of life under the stark years of Communism. A lot of old mentality still resonates in the older generation and this can cause a lot of problems, especially when dealing with bureaucratic matters.

#StudyAbroadBecause it expands you!


What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad?

My decision to study abroad was perhaps one of the best decisions I have ever made. It really helped me to develop as a person and an international citizen of the world. I really learned how to communicate with people across the board – beyond language – on a deeper, human scale.

I'm a totally different person than I was before I lived abroad.  

#StudyAbroadBecause it expands you!


Has your experience helped you get to where you are today?

Well, in a big way, yes as I have yet to “go back.” It helped me to realize my strengths and as it was a very successful experience - it gave me the confidence that I had never had and the ability to really go by the beat of my own drum. Priceless.

#StudyAbroadBecause it expands you!


What advice would you share with other students who are thinking of going abroad?

Finances! Ugh! I took WAY TOO much money out in loans and I feel as if I'll never pay them back. And I really didn't need all of it. That's what is so great about studying abroad – it really is a lot more affordable than studying in the U.S. I also worked part-time teaching English through part of it, so was able to also make money. The freedom of not having to worry about the money was nice... but now I have debt that I really didn't need to acquire.

Other than that, choose a place you are passionate about as it will really inspire your studies. 


How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?

Greatly! I was still pretty new to the international community when I chose to study abroad. I was unsure of myself and my place in such a great big world. I was nervous outside of my comfort zone and that all changed drastically while I was studying abroad. My world really opened up and I was able to see myself in the greater picture which felt really good. I no longer consider myself an “American” but a global citizen. My cultural identity has expanded 100-fold and I feel so much richer because of it. I'm so grateful for being given the opportunity. 

#StudyAbroadBecause it expands you!


Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

I think anyone can benefit from studying abroad. Even if it's just for a year, it'll open doors for you and show you parts of the world and yourself you never dreamed of. The world is such a big, miraculous place – such a pity to leave it unexplored. 

#StudyAbroadBecause it expands you!




All photos courtesy and copyright Emily Johnson