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At the beginning of 2023, I made a resolution that would change the course of my year: saying “yes” more often.

The simple commitment I made to myself wasn’t just about trying different things or exploring new places, it was a promise to myself that I would try to leave my comfort zone, meet new people, and hopefully foster a greater sense of confidence.

The outcome of this resolution was much greater than expected and one of the reasons I am most thankful for my changed mindset is my exchange semester at the University of Central Florida (UCF).

I have never been one for change, I’ve never been a big fan of even the smallest of changes or the smallest new thing. In 2023, when I made my New Year’s Resolution, I made sure to include two things: I intended to push myself but, I wouldn’t do anything that I knew would make me uncomfortable and even though I’m afraid of new things, it only felt right to answer “yes” to my parents when they asked if I wanted to spend a semester abroad, more than 5,000 miles away (I was shocked by myself too).

I’m big on trusting my gut feeling, and I’m glad that I am. Nothing has ever felt as right as walking onto the UCF campus for orientation in August.two students wearing pink jackets and cowboy hats

I am currently enrolled in the BA (Hons) Marketing Communications with Public Relations undergraduate degree at Bournemouth University. Choosing to study at BU came easily to me, the course is very highly rated and I also wanted a change from my hometown – Birmingham – and although I like the city life a lot, I also have really enjoyed the quiet but vibrant atmosphere that Bournemouth has and living near the beach definitely has its bonuses.

Studying abroad has always been an aspiration of mine, I have always had a particular interest in studying in the United States. I had planned to go on a study exchange while in secondary school but was unable to due to Covid-19. The idea to go on an exchange then resurfaced on my first day at BU, where we were informed of the opportunities we had in our second year with the Turing Scheme.

After discussing the idea with many friends and family members, it became clear that completing a semester abroad would be a valuable experience for both my personal growth and future career prospects. The application process was tricky at times, especially when navigating all the paperwork as the terminology was often confusing and unfamiliar. I am fortunate enough however that I was supported fully by the staff at both Bournemouth University and the University of Central Florida.

During my exchange semester at the University of Central Florida, I fully embraced my resolution and said “yes” to almost every opportunity that came my way. I wanted to extract as much value as I could from my experience. I found that each “yes” I answered opened doors to new connections, perspectives and helped with my own personal growth. From sporting events and social hangouts to engaging in academic discussions, exploring the city of Orlando and immersing myself in campus life – saying “yes” helped to expand my horizons. Even the most seemingly ordinary moments to other people became unforgettable experiences during my time at UCF and I would do anything to relive those memories.a college of printed polaroid pictures

One of my most exciting experiences off campus and outside of Orlando was making the drive to Tampa Bay with a friend from class to see my favourite NHL team – the Toronto Maple Leafs –  play the Tampa Bay Lightning. Amalie arena has an electrifying atmosphere and the passion from both teams fans as well as the Leafs winning the game in overtime, created an unforgettable game. Beyond the rink, exploring Tampa was also just as exciting as the game, introducing me to new sights and foods while soaking in the Florida sun.

Another favourite memory of mine involves visiting my friend’s hometown, Crystal River, where we spent the weekend celebrating her birthday. The journey there had a car full of joyful sounds – shared karaoke turns, nostalgic childhood stories and infectious laughter.

The weekend unfolded into casual runs to Walmart, incredible up-close encounters with manatees, dancing around a bonfire singing along to Taylor Swift songs, playing card games and even (a group made up of people all over the age of 19) building blanket forts. These moments have turned into memories that I am so thankful to have for the rest of my life.

People tend to underestimate the power that saying “yes” really has but I can honestly say that saying “yes” more than I ordinarily would, changed my life. I am so lucky to have met the people I did at UCF and to have been given the opportunity to study there in the first place. The experience not only taught me about a whole new culture but it also taught me a lot more about myself than I would be willing to admit.

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