As a representative of my university’s Office of Education Abroad, and now as a Blog Correspondent for IES Abroad, I spend a lot of time talking about my experiences studying abroad.
“When I was abroad…”
“*Insert city of your choosing* is my favorite place on earth.”
“I met friends for life!”
“Classes were so easy!”
“I got to travel, like, every weekend!”
“One word: food.”
And everyone’s all-time favorite…
“Abroad changed me.”
These are all things that we study abroad vets say to one another, to our friends, to our family, to anyone who will listen. Even those of us who are above it all are guilty of spilling our guts about their abroad experience once or twice, and have probably gotten teased for it a bit.
“Ohhhhh, did you go abroad?”
“I couldn’t tell from your Instagram!”
“Wait...let me guess...you went abroad.”
These are all the sounds of the white noise that surrounds the study abroad experience, and I’m sure you have heard or even participated in making that noise. Now, this is not to say that many of the things people say and share about their study abroad experiences aren't true, or that it is okay to brag about it, or on the flip side, that it is okay to tease someone for it. Rather, this is simply to encourage you to overcome it. I challenge you to, instead, think about why you should/want to/might/do/have study(ied) abroad.
But I want to make one thing clear—some truth about studying abroad—above that white noise: you should absolutely, without a doubt, unquestionably, study abroad if you can. For those of you who aren’t sure, who can’t decide, who are afraid, who are nervous, who are shy, who have never traveled, who are intimidated, who are hesitant: we were all you once! And now...it seems to be all we talk about. Don’t you at least want to see if all that white noise is true?
Jokes about study abroad student and alumni stereotypes aside, I am here to tell you the truth about studying abroad, from my perspective.
From me to you.
What does studying abroad mean to me?
To me, studying abroad is an expedition of the world and the person that I am within it.
Thanks to the experiences that I have had overseas, I have grown to know myself within the contexts of the people, perspectives, art, history, economies, cultures, and more that make up our world. And I wouldn’t take back those opportunities for a minute.
I got this mindset from my parents growing up, with and by whose passion and wisdom about travel I have been both blessed and inspired. You see, both of my parents worked in hospitality, which gives a lot of context to the wanderlust I seem to have inherited.
My mom always says that:
Travel is the key to understanding human beings. It is how we learn to respect one another. It brings people together.
And my Dad:
Travel is our spirit and livelihood. Never forget to just explore.
I’m paraphrasing, as these lines are ones that have come up within and between story tidbits of journeys, business trips, and adventures alike, through which my parents have grown their love and passion for travel.
Yet, my love and passion for travel is something that I have not only inherited, but developed. It has begged me to ask questions about myself, about why travel even means something to me in the first place.
Do I travel for the quenching of curiosity?
Do I travel for the learning opportunity?
Do I travel for the people and the culture?
Do I just travel for the sake of saying that I did?
Do I just travel for the Instagram pictures?
Do I just travel for the trendiness of it all?
For the sake of honesty, I’ll admit that maybe it’s a little bit of all of those things. But most importantly, I travel to be the best version of myself for others.
I travel for learning about who I am in the world, for learning about how I fit in the world, for learning about what it means to be human in the world. I travel for love, for respect, for growth, for adventure, for confidence, for curiosity, for interaction, for new experiences in the world. I travel for the celebration of all of the things that I just listed.
All this is to say that I strongly encourage that you do too. No matter what the white noise is around studying abroad, the experience is worthwhile. Not just for the sake of doing it, but for the sake of everything that the experience will bring to who you are, and who you can be for other people.
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Mary Kaitlin Enright
<p>I was born and raised in Glenview, Illinois, a suburb of the beautiful city of Chicago. When I was fifteen, I was surprised by the unexpected opportunity to move to Hong Kong, when my family was transferred there. That was the very beginning of my relationship with the travel bug, by which I have been afflicted ever since. I spent time traveling around Asia with my family throughout high school, then traveling through Europe in my first year of college while studying abroad in London. Now a Marketing student at Villanova University with minors in Creative Writing and Communication, my next stop is Cape Town, South Africa, and I am excited to share my experience with the world.</p>