The ISA JournalAbroad Reflection: Capability and Acceptance

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As I wrap up my final two and half weeks of being abroad, I’ve come to cherish the things that these past few months have taught me. I came to Prague eager for excitement and newness, and on top of those things, I gained a fulfillment that swallowed me whole. This experience warmed my heart and unlocked a part of me I didn’t know I possessed, and I am a different and better person because of it. I learned so much, but my new knowledge of capability and acceptance has shifted my life in ways for the better. 

Prague, Czech Republic


Coming to Prague fully on my own has restored my vision of myself and my capabilities. My greatest gift in life is my relationship with my twin sister, Ellie. She is my go-to right-hand man for everything, and she has been for as long as I can remember. However, growing up, I always saw her as smarter, more decisive, and independent. I let her make all the decisions for us and would never do something without running it by her first. I always thought, “Why should I do this when Ellie will just do it better?” By my laziness and my “I don’t care” mentality, I subconsciously convinced myself that I wasn’t capable on my own to do things or make decisions. I doubted myself and wouldn’t even try for fear of failure.

Then, I spontaneously decided to go abroad a year before her, all alone, knowing absolutely nothing about Prague. I knew at this point in my life I needed to go and do something different, and I didn’t seek Ellie’s approval for this decision. 

We’d never been separated this long before, and because we were across the world and in two totally different time zones, I didn’t have her to fall back on. It forced me to make decisions on my own and learn to have faith in myself. My perspective started changing, and I gained confidence in all my decisions, big or small. 

Hallstatt, Austria

This mentality of mine became concrete when I went on a solo trip to Austria last month. I cried, panicked, and thought I was never going to see Prague again. I asked probably over 50 strangers for help or directions and got off at the wrong train stop in a completely deserted area. I started freaking out, but freaking out wasn’t going to get me back to Prague. I got myself together and found a solution, even if that meant waiting two hours for another train. In that moment of fear, I had only myself to rely on—and that was all I needed.

I am smart and able to handle every obstacle that comes my way. Being abroad, away from those I am most comfortable with, forced me to change my views of myself and have more confidence in my decision-making. Guidance is a necessity, but the balance between relying on others and having faith in yourself is key. 

Innsbrook, Austria


Last week, I went on a walk with Ava and debriefed our time in Prague. She said something that really resonated and made me see so clearly why this experience has been so monumental. She pointed out that although all of us are so different, we never tried to change aspects of ourselves to become friends. We didn’t try to fit into a box or diminish parts of ourselves to get the others to like us; we all were just who we were. All of us were comfortable enough in our own skin, and as a result, we all accepted each other.

This acceptance of one another helped curate some of the most genuine relationships I’ve ever had. Realizing this, I was able to see myself in the third person, and that acceptance has allowed me to be my authentic self. I wrote this in my journal on April 28th:

Being here, I’ve noticed how unconditionally happy I am every single day. I can see myself from another perspective: laugh, be laughed at, and be completely accepted for who I am by everyone here. I feel so embraced, loved, and genuinely cared for. Because of their acceptance of me, I’ve blossomed, healed, and grown. This environment has fostered and restored me and highlights my best qualities every day. I am whole.

Krakow, Poland

These feelings of pure acceptance have made me a less judgmental person. I realized that every person, no matter their gender, sexuality, opinions, background, or upbringing, is just like everyone else. We are all different, and we are all the same. Everyone is just trying to get through life the best they can, which looks different for each individual. There is no point in judging anyone different than you. 

There are people I see walking around wearing clothes I would never choose for myself or acting in ways I wouldn’t. Before going abroad, I probably would have thought something of it and labeled it as weird. But I understand now that that is just their way of expressing themselves, and it doesn’t have to affect me in a negative way. 

Being in an environment that allows you to be yourself produces the most genuine happiness. I’ve learned so much about myself and others because of the embracing environment I’ve been a part of. My journal entries all say the same thing. March 21st:

I feel extremely content at this moment. I am so grateful that I’m in such a beautiful place, surrounded by such beautiful people. Every day my cup gets more and more full, and I feel so immensely lucky.

No words will ever be able to describe how impactful these last four months have been for me. I value myself more than I ever have, and that has seeped into the relationships I’ve made here. I’m grateful for everything I’ve been through in my life because each event was a step in the right direction that led to an experience that made me the most content, happy, and serene I’ve ever been. I have Prague to thank.

Prague, Czech Republic

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from my favorite poem, “When You Have to Leave The Best Things Behind,” by Heidi Priebe

You have to remember that the Universe is infinitely more chaotic than we give it credit for – that there are people you’re going to meet who you couldn’t dream up if you tried. That there are situations you’ll encounter that you never would have pictured yourself experiencing. That there will be days bursting with more happiness and light than you could possibly fathom from where you’re standing now. You have to think of all the times that life has surprised you for the better and know that it can do it again. That it will do it again – as long as you stay open to those changes. As long as you don’t let the endings close you off from the new beginnings that are waiting ahead.

Maya Kollme is a student at James Madison University and an ISA Featured Photo Blogger. She is studying with ISA in Prague, Czech Republic.

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