“Study abroad!!” they said, “It’ll be fun!!” they said. And they were right!
I would like to believe that a good majority of students come into college at a university saying they would like to study abroad at some point. Unfortunately, many give up on that dream due to thinking there is no way financially they will be able to fund it or that there is not program that will work with their major. However, when you are able to find the perfect program for you, with help from the lovely study abroad office of course (MSC 3301!), there are so many benefits from studying abroad. Of course you are going to get the opportunity to travel and see new things, for some of us maybe it is the first time, however what I want to stress most, and why I encourage everyone to travel or study abroad at least once in your life–cultural immersion, being a global citizen, and being a life long learner.
One of my favorite things about studying abroad was being able to explore the town, the food, the little things about the culture that make it unique, and the people. You can go any where to be a tourist, but when you force yourself to be culturally immersed, let go of stereotypes and preconceptions, you are able to learn so much more about the culture you are in. If you hold onto the fact that “I am an American student, I am a visitor in this country,” you will be treated like one and you are keeping a mental gate closed to yourself. However, if you embrace the world around you and open your mind you are much more susceptible to be influenced by the culture around you and much more able to soak up what you are seeing and learning.
I encourage you to study abroad, yes because it looks good on your resume, and yes because your classroom is not in Tampa, Florida, but I encourage you to travel to learn more about people around the world, how they live their daily lives, and cultures/religions outside of your own. It is a shame that some people are too focused on their own box and get trapped inside–they never look out the window, let alone, step OUTSIDE of the window to embrace the world around them. As student who is studying abroad you have now taken on the role as a global citizen and it is your duty to take this opportunity to learn as much as you can about the outside world while you can. In learning more about other people around the world and other cultures, I promise you will learn more about yourself than you ever could have imagined.
If you are a first year student, start NOW. Find a program that is right for you, find scholarships, grants, start working and saving money–whatever you need to help you get out there. If you’re a second or third year, it’s not too late! And if you are an education major, I highly recommend that studying and teaching abroad is the best thing you can do for yourself as a future educator. 🙂