Beyond the borders of Grand Junction, Colorado there is an entire world to explore. This is an adventure that Hannah Pryzstup took into her own hands. Ready for a change, the sophomore spent a semester abroad studying abroad at Bradford in England. I spoke to Hannah in person about the adventures she experienced as a 19 year old.
Q: You decided to study abroad. Where did this idea spark?
A: When I first started the application, I just wanted to prove to myself that I was capable of doing something like that. Going to a different country all alone and navigating life. I have always had a really big support system and I have never had to be alone or challenge myself in that way. It was a matter of proving to myself that I could.
Q: When did you start?
A: The whole process of applying to study abroad is very long. It takes many months. I started the application process in March of 2021 and I didn’t get my finalized destination until December of 2021, so basically a full year.
Q: When things started getting real, how were you feeling?
A: Transitions came that I never expected. I moved into an apartment with my best friend from middle school and I got this boyfriend. This was all right around the point I was supposed to leave and I didn’t want to go for all of those reasons.
Q. Did the reasons you wanted to go change?
A. I wanted to stay for all the reasons I initially wanted to go. I realized I would be alone and I would by myself in a country without my family.
Q: Why did you follow through with it?
A: I just couldn’t stop myself.
Q: How did you prepare for moving across the world?
A: It just kind of came and it happened. I thought ok, I guess I have to pack. Today I guess I’m going to the airport.
Q: When did the realization sink in?
A: When I flew into Manchester, I realized that I was committed and that there was really no going back. I was stuck basically.
Q: Tell me what happened after you landed.
A: I flew into Manchester which is an hour and a half away from Bradford which is the University I was studying at. They had a taxi service through the school and when I landed, I realized I had no confirmation on if I had this taxi service. Luckily there was a service there for me. We arrived at campus and we had to go check in.
Q: How did that campus compare?
A: It is hard to give a scale. Our campus is so spread out and theirs was not. There were only two little dorms, or they call them flats, on campus and most other students lived off campus.
Q: What was the next step after checking in?
A: We went to my room and I opened my door and my bed was leaning against the wall, like there is nothing in there. They said they would give me a comforter and they didn’t. The room was empty. I was exhausted from traveling. I remember thinking, what did I sign up for? My life is falling apart.
Q: Did things get better?
A: The first two weeks were really hard. I called my mom crying every single day. I was like mom I want to come home I overestimated my abilities to do this. She told me to give it time.
Q; What helped you get through the transition?
A: My roommate helped me a lot. Her name is Rhyan and she is from Nebraska. She was like my bestie the whole trip. Human nature is to want to relate to something so having her was great. She was a really big part of why my experience went well.
Q: What was the turnaround point for you?
A: The second weekend there was an organized trip to York with all the international students. It was a two-hour drive away. We went to this mansion with a kitchen inside and I didn’t really know what to expect.
Q: When did you sign up for this?
A: Before I left. They offered it and I applied for it before. I almost didn’t go. My roommate talked me into it and we gave it a try.
Q: Tell me about how things shifted for you after the trip with the other international students
A: The trip helped me gain the connections and realize that I wasn’t alone. There were other students who were just as out of their element as I was.
For me I was able to break out of my shell and learn about people. It was so cool to experience this with these people and learn about them.
It transitioned from being this scary, unknown land to knowing the people. I realized they would be able to fill the gaps that I left behind. I didn’t have any friends, but then I was able to make those friends and have that support system. It was eye opening to know I am not alone.
It went from ‘this is so scary and new’ to ‘this is so amazing and new’.
It was monumental in the terms of how my brain switched from being in panic mode to excitement mode. It was an opportunity to explore and take advantage of the experience.
Q: What are some experiences you had that you wouldn’t have if you hadn’t chosen to open up and enjoy life.
A: If I wouldn’t have had this turn around during this trip, I probably would not have experienced a lot of things. I built a bunch of friendships with all of these international students. We hung out together all the time. The biggest take away was the friendships I made.
Q: Do you stay in contact with anyone you met
A: I still talk to my roommate, Rhyan. I still am in communication with like five other people from France, Romania, Germany and Spain.
Q: What is a memory that will stay with you forever.
A: I think one of my favorite memories was traveling around Europe with a group of five people. Greece was the place we stayed at the longest. There was a night in Greece we drank a little bit of alcohol. Someone pushed Tim, who is an instigator and tried so create havoc. He’s a little menace. Someone pushed him in the pool. He got out and he was so angry. He picked me up while I was fully clothed and threw me in the pool. I got up and was like “what the heck.” Then everyone just jumped in the pool and we all started chicken fighting. It is very burned into my brain the way that we were releasing our inner child. It was the perfect way to end our trip there because the next day we flew to Italy.
Q: How did you spend your final days in England?
A: My brother and I got into an accident. We were in a hospital where an entire hospital staff didn’t speak English. I fly to England. I went to see Harry Styles in concert and I enjoy my time but it’s also bitter sweet because I know that Kyles back there in Italy. Then I fly home.
Q: What was that like for you?
A: I had this ecstatic amazing time for the past 5 months, this horrible and traumatic accident and then I’m home. It was a huge flip in my life and in my life style. Before going there, I had 3 jobs, I was very involved with my academic life here on campus, and then I go there and school is not hard, I am not working and I am just relaxing and enjoying my time. Then I come back here and responsibilities and life are real again.
Q: What was the hardest part?
A: I had to readjust to reality. It was a reality for me at the time there. But then you come home and its different than what I’ve been used to for five months. I fell into a bit of a funk because everything in my world had just shifted. We are humans, we bounce back. We readjust. I think it took me as long, if not longer to get back to normal life as it did to get adjusted there.
Q: If you could describe your experience in one word what would it be
Q: If you could do anything over would you?
A: I would look into it a little bit more. I was just kind of freestyling and I didn’t look into anything. It ended up being ok and working out for me. Prior to going I would have researched and looked into it a little more.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone interested in studying abroad?
A: There are so many people who think studying abroad is dream that they are incapable of accomplishing this. They think it is a dream when it could be a reality for them. So, I would advise that they look into it and look into the reality of it with that mindset behind it. Everyone is capable of doing it. Don’t count yourself out. You are capable of doing that.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A: Don’t be afraid of change. It will pay off in the end.